Facebook’s Violent Video Problem


Facebook has a growing violent video problem and there is pressure mounting for the platform to tackle it.

Two days prior to Mark Zuckerberg’s F8 (Facebook’s annual software conference) speech, a video of an elderly man being murdered was posted on Facebook by his assailant. In within a matter of minutes, the assailant confessed to the murder on Facebook Live. Around an hour before Zuckerberg was due to speak, police announced that the murderer had taken his own life following a nationwide hunt that had begun.

Zuckerberg admitted that a lot of work needed to be done to prevent such instances from repeating.

Facebook has guaranteed a review of the tools used to report inappropriate material on the platform. It has also hinted at possibly using artificial intelligence to stop the spreading of such content.

As difficult as it may be, Facebook needs to come up with a solution quickly to combat the problem.

Just two weeks after the Cleveland murder, a Thai man streamed a video of the murder of his baby daughter on Facebook Live before killing himself. This brutal video was on Facebook for over 24 hours before it was removed.

The two murders have brought to light Facebook’s inability to control the Live content that is streamed on it. Facebook has a massive 2 billion active users every month. Any of these 2 billion users can post whatever content they want. For the content to be reviewed by Facebook’s team, it needs to be flagged by enough users.

Although Facebook has a procedure to remove offensive content that has been posted on the website, policing Live content is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform that has to deal with this problem, Twitter and YouTube have the same problems. Not everyone using social media platforms will use it correctly. Facebook, however, does have the largest user base therefore can provide the most visibility.

For Facebook specifically, this is a sensitive issue because Zuckerberg had set his mind on prioritizing video content in the future. He has previously said that we are entering the “golden age of video”. He expected people to be sharing at least one video every day in the very near future – but turns out not everyone can be trusted with the ability to share a video.

To make matters more challenging, it is difficult to identify what videos need to be taken off the website. Earlier, Facebook received backlash for removing videos related to social movements like Black Lives Matter due to some videos being violent.

Currently the site continues to rely on its users flagging objectionable content but this isn’t a sufficient solution. Those individuals that Facebook is depending on to flag the content, would have to have viewed some of the content in order to determine whether it is appropriate. By the time enough people have flagged the content, the video has already spread.

Even if Facebook does manage to use AI to remove objectionable content, it does not stop deranged individuals from posting such content on the platform.