Facebook comments in the aftermath of the ‘Live Murder’

facebook live murder steve stephens

Facebook has officially issued a press statement in the wake of a murder which was broadcasted through Facebook Live, citing it ‘needs to do better’.

Since the feature’s introduction, Facebook’s Live video push has been a hotbed of controversy. While many have used – and enjoyed- the service to host debates, share updates, or broadcast special events, the advent of a murder which took place on Sunday the 16th of April and was shared through the medium has left an outcry amongst not only authorities, but further the press and general public alike.

The events of the 16th of April saw a Facebook live user – identified as US citizen Steve Stephens – carry out a premeditated murder which resulted in the broadcasted death of Robert Godwin Sr, a 74-year-old resident of Cleveland.

Read: Facebook begins testing reactions and a dislike button in Messenger

The process of events, as Facebook has now revealed, saw Stephens broadcast his intent to commit murder, which was not reported to Facebook as a violation of the terms of use.

Subsequently, Stephens broadcasted a second video of the shooting – which resulted in the death of Robert Godwin Sr – and confessed responsibility just 11 minutes later. Half an hour later, the video shooting was reported by members of the Facebook community, and Stephens account was summarily disabled – and all videos were removed from the public eye – one hour after his Live broadcast.

Facebook has officially reached out after the incident, offering that while it disabled the Stephens’ account after 23 minutes after receiving a report, the company ‘need(s) to do better’.

Given that the access and reach Facebook provides to the general public, much of the concerns surrounding the use of Live are unprecedented. As a result, Facebook has committed to ‘reviewing its reporting flows’ to ensure that users can report videos – or other materials – can see action as swiftly as possible.

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations, wrote in an official blog post that:

In addition to improving our reporting flows, we are constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment.

Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety. (People are still able to share portions of the videos in order to condemn them or for public awareness, as many news outlets are doing in reporting the story online and on television). We are also working on improving our review processes. Currently, thousands of people around the world review the millions of items that are reported to us every week in more than 40 languages. We prioritize reports with serious safety implications for our community

(People are still able to share portions of the videos in order to condemn them or for public awareness, as many news outlets are doing in reporting the story online and on television). We are also working on improving our review processes. Currently, thousands of people around the world review the millions of items that are reported to us every week in more than 40 languages. We prioritize reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster.”

Some groups in the United States have mobilized to force Facebook to consent to transparency surrounding its censorship practices, and have further called for the platform to agree to an external audit of its policies.

Facebook’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to speak at the company’s annual F8 developer conference, where the company has pushed its development of Live Video and broadcast technology in recent years.

Just recently, Facebook brought its Live Video platform to Instagram, where users can similarly broadcast updates as and when they happen.

Zuckerberg will be hard pressed to navigate through the advent of a broadcasted murder occurring on the service. Presently, Facebook is committed to aiding the ongoing investigation of Stephens’ broadcasted murder.

A national manhunt is underway for Stephens, who has managed to evade custody in the wake of his Live Video broadcasts. The FBI has subsequently appealed to the public for tips, can be reached in the US by dialing 1-800-Call FBI.

Read: Facebook Lite smashes through a record 200 million users worldwide

What are your thoughts? How can – or should – Facebook shape its policy to prevent such incidents being widely broadcast? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!

Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA

In this article

Join the Conversation