Facebook Live is a video option allowing Facebook users to record themselves and broadcast it onto the social media site live. At first glance the new addition appeared revolutionary and exciting, giving life to a site previously considered outdated. But this update quickly became a nightmare.
On Easter Sunday Steve Stephens, calling himself “Stevie Steve”, went on Facebook Live in Cleveland, Ohio. Clearly distraught, the man complained about being left by his ex-girlfriend and his mother’s supposed lack of interest in him. Later, Stephens broadcasted himself gunning down Robert Godwin, an innocent passerby. After his deadly confrontation with Godwin, Stephens was hunted by police for hours, nowhere to be found. The public was outraged as police were unable to locate Stephens until the following day, when he was found dead in his vehicle.
A little over a week later, 20-year-old Wuttisan “Tei” Wongtalay of Thailand hung his 11-month-old daughter before hanging himself on Facebook Live. Wongtalay and his wife Jiranuch “Bew” Trirat previously had an argument involving accusations of Trirat of cheating. She fled their home fearing for her life, then witnessed her daughter’s hanging on social media. It took Facebook over 24 hours to take down the video. The fact that Facebook didn’t remove the live feature after Stevie Steve’s “Easter Day Slaughter” makes me wonder what the social media site is really aiming to do. Help people stay connected, or allow people to broadcast horrific acts of violence.
A few days after the tragic hangings, an Alabama man committed suicide on Facebook live. He live streamed shooting himself in the head with a rifle, seen over 1,000 times and visible on the site for over two hours.
Four deaths have been shown on Facebook Live in the last month, leaving me curious as to why Facebook has neither made many comments nor made any attempts to remove the option of live broadcast. I understand that if someone is in the right place at the wrong time, they may capture something horrible happening on camera and post it, such as the Alton Sterling shooting. But, these are rare. The fact that murder-suicide incidents have been broadcasted live via Facebook three times in a one month time period is a serious issue.
Some are arguing that it is a particular user’s fault for not being able to handle the technology. Matt Honan at BuzzFeed.com said, “The dark human history of forever makes it certain that people will also use these same tools to attack and abuse and harass and lie.” But, it’s extremely rare that graphic videos of murder are posted online for millions of people to see, and nearly unheard of in the case of suicide. That includes our youth.
At a conference hosted by Facebook for software developers, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commented on the death of Robert Godwin. “We will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” he said. If that’s so Mr. Zuckerberg,why hasn’t Facebook Live been disabled until you can figure out how to prevent this, after incident three?
Zuckerberg’s vague comments to the media and the lack of response from Facebook has left me questioning the site’s moral integrity. Making it easier for people to witness someone committing suicide or murdering an innocent child is not the appropriate use of social media, and I hope that Facebook will take the initiative to remove the Live feature and prevent this from ever happening again.
No one should ever have to witness something as alarming as these three incidents. Making it possible for our youth to witness violence, death and the unkindness of the world will pollute the minds of the next generation, leading our world into a darker place. If we want peace, we must call for change in the realm of social media. We need to be protected by those making it possible for us to stay connected.
There is a price to pay for allocating violence on social media, and we are paying it.