We laughed along with “Chewbacca Mask Lady
” and delighted in the (accidental) live stream of a childbirth
. Live streams via Facebook (and Periscope and Snapchat) of House sit-ins
made us feel engaged in the democratic process without the hassle of leaving home.
Recently, things have taken a serious turn, with videos of shootings, protests, beatings and more shootings served up in our feeds, often without warning.
If you feel like you’re becoming inured to it all, expressing a sentence of outrage, clicking share and moving on, you’re not alone. This is not Periscope or Meerkat, after all. It’s Facebook, where your grandmother has an opinion on the live stream of a Georgia woman beating her teenage daughter.
Before you bemoan the demise of civilization and threaten to quit social media (never gonna happen), consider the following:
Video can be especially powerful when you cut out the middleman
Protesters from Turkey
sidestepped traditional media when they live-streamed demonstrations, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions.
Or, imagine if Diamond Reynolds had called the local news station after a police officer shot Philando Castile instead of hitting record on her smartphone.
Would the station have been able to capture the intimate and shocking point of view that put the July 6 shooting in the national spotlight?
As a result of the video and the subsequent furor over the killing, Gov. Mark Dayton has called for a federal investigation. On Friday, a Minnesota prosecutor said he has appointed an outside attorney to help him decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
“It feels like an evolutionary step in media consumption and not necessarily a frightening or disturbing one. With that said, there will be disturbing bumps along the road as the discourse adapts and standards evolve. That’s all part of the process.”
… as long as there are standards that everyone is aware of
None of what’s happening on Facebook is unprecedented or unusual when it comes to media innovation. Twitter, which Facebook leapfrogged over to become the leader in live-streaming, is dealing with similar anxieties in the form of trolling and abuse.
Developing standards is the task at hand right now for Facebook, said industry analyst Scott Kessler of S&P Global Market Intelligence, who covers Facebook.
“They have to figure out how to strike a balance between decorum and freedom,” he said. “The onus is on these companies to make clear they actually have a process.”
… Which there are, sort of
Facebook says the same community standards
exist for all content on Facebook, including live video.
Viewers can report potentially offensive material 24/7 to real people dedicated to responding to such reports. If a live stream starts blowing up, staffers monitor it for possible violations and interrupt it if need be.
Take, for example, the recent video of a mother repeatedly slapping and hitting her teenage daughter on Facebook Live. The original video, which sparked allegations of child abuse and prompted a law enforcement investigation, is gone from the original account it was posted on. However, copies remain on Facebook, in posts condemning the violence.
As Facebook explains in their statement:
“One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those situations, context and degree are everything. For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video.”
One line in their community standards hints at how far they’re willing to go in the name of an open, connected society:
“Because of the diversity of our global community, please keep in mind that something that may be disagreeable or disturbing to you may not violate our Community Standards.”
And, don’t forget…
If seeing those violent acts in your feed disturbs you, remember that you can always look away, scroll past or otherwise avoid your feed.
In other words, put the phone down.