LIV­ING IN THE MO­MENT (OR NOT)

If it can be ex­ploited, you can be sure that it will be.

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK - by Koh Wanzi

Face­book is find­ing it­self in mud­died wa­ters th­ese days. A spate of live-streamed mur­ders, sui­cides, and other abuses have left it strug­gling to rec­on­cile its claims of greater connectivity with th­ese in­stances of ex­ploita­tion.

“When you in­ter­act live, you feel con­nected in a more per­sonal way,” said CEO Mark Zucker­berg when Face­book Live first launched.

Ac­cord­ing to Face­book’s nar­ra­tive, it had cre­ated yet an­other way for peo­ple to share and con­nect to one an­other. It pro­moted greater in­ti­macy, as peo­ple would be able to par­tic­i­pate more ac­tively in each other’s lives, even from a dis­tance.

There’s no deny­ing that Live is pretty in­cred­i­ble. With nearly two bil­lion users world­wide, Face­book has a reach that no TV net­work could hope to match. But Face­book is also naive in be­liev­ing that Live would only host break­ing news, cute celebrity shoutouts, and fuzzy, heart-warm­ing mo­ments.

You can’t cre­ate some­thing and not ex­pect peo­ple to mis­use it, some­thing Face­book has ap­peared woe­fully un­pre­pared for. The video of a Thai mur­der-sui­cide was ac­ces­si­ble for around 24 hours be­fore it was fi­nally taken down, while a 12-year-old’s sui­cide by hang­ing was re­port­edly left on­line for two weeks.

Face­book has since said that it does not al­low this kind of 'con­tent' on the plat­form, and is work­ing on mea­sures, in­clud­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, to bet­ter flag of­fend­ing photos and videos. It also an­nounced plans to add 3,000 peo­ple to its global com­mu­nity op­er­a­tions team to bol­ster its abil­ity to re­view com­mu­nity re­ports and act on them.

Un­for­tu­nately, there’s just no easy so­lu­tion to all this. The first step is for Face­book to ac­knowl­edge that it has a prob­lem, in­stead of sug­ar­coat­ing things with talk about the au­then­tic­ity of live video and the use of aug­mented re­al­ity for art. Zucker­berg took a step in that di­rec­tion by cit­ing the need to build a safe com­mu­nity and re­spond quickly in a Face­book post in May, and this is a hope­ful sign that the com­pany is fi­nally tak­ing the prob­lem se­ri­ously.

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