Commentary

Another Murder Video Puts Facebook On Defensive

Facebook’s system for policing prohibited content is garnering fresh criticism after another horrifying murder-suicide was broadcast live on the social network, this time in Thailand.

On Monday, a 20-year-old Thai man, Wuttisan Wongtalay, used Facebook Live to broadcast himself murdering his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter, whom he hung with a noose from the top of an abandoned hotel in the resort city of Phuket, Thailand.

Wongtalay then committed suicide by hanging himself. He had argued with his girlfriend before committing the murder-suicide, according to police.

Wongtalay live streamed two videos of the crime on Facebook, both of which remained on the social platform about 24 hours before finally being removed. By the time they were removed the first video had been viewed 112,000 times, and the second one 258,000 times.

The video was also posted to YouTube before being removed.

The length of time and number of views recorded before the videos were reported and removed once again raises questions about the effectiveness of the community policing system Facebook relies on to find and flag offensive content.

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In short, there’s no guarantee that offensive videos will be seen and reported early on by a person who shares the broader community’s sensibilities, leaving the content to go viral and be downloaded and reposted, making it much harder to eliminate it from the Web.

Wongtalay’s girlfriend, 22-year-old Jiranuch Trirat, told Agence France Press about seeing her daughter’s murder on Facebook: “I was with my older brother and he was logging onto his Facebook… He was scrolling down and suddenly we saw the live broadcast. I turned to take a look and saw him (Wuttisan) drop my daughter with the rope and I couldn’t continue to watch.”

The fact that the videos remained up for almost a day is especially noteworthy in light of the fact that Wongtalay’s friends saw the live streaming video and called police, who rushed to the scene but arrived too late; evidently none of the friends or policemen who saw the video thought to report it to Facebook at the time.

The governor of Phuket asked the public not to share the four-minute-long video showing the murder.

While commercial concerns take a back seat to the basic ethical problem, it probably won’t escape advertisers that their messages might accidentally appear next to such content before it is removed.

The Thailand incident comes on top of last week’s outcry over Facebook video showing an elderly man’s murder. In the widely reported incident, a man in Cleveland named Steve Stephens posted a video of himself shooting and killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., having apparently chosen the victim at random.

The video was not live-streamed but was posted within two minutes of being recorded; Stephens later committed suicide when cornered by the police.

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