Facebook Live Killings


The action of Steve Stephens recording himself committing murder on Facebook Live fueled a discussion that has been pending on extent of content control of what was broadcasted via the social media live streaming platforms. The video which was one hour and 45 minutes remained live until it was reported. This was after the confession by the Killer had ended. Stephen had earlier indicated his intentions of murdering in a video which was not reported. The occurrence of this event brought about the discussion on what Facebook can do to help in better police criminal content. This also prompted Facebook to conduct a review of reporting flows. Other incidents that have been broadcasted on Facebook Live include the torturing of Chicago man and gang raping broadcast on Facebook Live (Newcomb, 2017). This situation poses a challenge to Facebook and other social media platforms on the need of maintaining a balance on safety and providing the users with free expression. This paper will discuss Facebook’s responsibility in helping in the policing activities.

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Facebook’s Duty in Rescuing Crime Victim

Facebook has no legal obligation to protect any wrongdoing casualty. It should be noted that Facebook does not hold the mandate of a local police force. The general assumption would be that when Facebook becomes aware of a crime being committed and broadcasted on its platform, it should notify the appropriate law enforcement officials.  The company cannot be said to have committed a crime either by action, inaction or omission for not helping the policing of criminal acts. Facebook cannot be held accountable for the acts being committed across its platform. The company can, however, be said to have a moral obligation of preventing crime and not supporting any methods seeking to promote a criminal act.

The question of morality is a relative one and cannot be used to condemn the action or inaction of Facebook. It is clear that Facebook once notified of such an occurrence acts immediately by stopping the broadcast or any report. Facebook states that it is reported as being against the standards, just one report is enough to make it be reviewed. The Facebook Live is a new technology, and the company is still in learning level. The challenges are just emerging, and Facebook stated it is doing all it can to improve the algorithm to help curb criminal act broadcasted and sent over on its platforms.

Facebook and other social media platforms might be working to disallow some content being shared. The technology of sharing live videos over the social media platforms has no capacity of filtering live-streaming videos. Any intervention requires human content moderators to watch the videos one at a time and then making a decision whether the content needs to be removed. This implies that they cannot be reviewed while they happen live but after the posting has been done and someone reports them. Some people are arguing that Facebook and other social media platforms should be subjected to similar laws as oil companies which are required to be accountable for any clean-up and damage occurring directly or indirectly from oil spills (White, 2017).

How Social Media Platforms can be More Proactive

The social media platforms can be more proactive in the manner in which they review the content being shared over their sites. The audit process should be carried out by a full-time team tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that any material promoting or broadcasting a criminal act has been pulled down. Some individuals have turned to exploiting the deficiencies in online policies and carrying out cyber-bullying and trolling. Clearly, people have become detached from empathy online. It would, therefore, be important that the social media platforms need to establish mechanisms for preventing the spreading of crime-filled content via their platforms.

The social media platforms need to get innovative and develop functional artificial intelligence tools with capabilities to review content being shared across their platforms. This would allow the companies to filter the content before it becomes available to other users across the platforms. Following the recent events involving suicides and crime, Facebook gave plans to integrate its suicide prevention tools used in Facebook posts to its live-streaming feature and messenger platforms. Artificial intelligence is a new field seeking to take advantage of big data and preventing such acts from being broadcasted (Turner, 2016).

Safeguards to Prevent Acts of Violence from being broadcasted

One of the safeguards that can be employed by Facebook is to make people aware of the standards of the content being shared. After the event of the shooting of Robert Godwin, Sr by Steve Stephen, Facebook’s CEO, indicated that the act was against the community standards. While Facebook maintains that it prohibits content that aims to promote violence and only allow what is considered beneficial to the public interest, the question remains on how well the public is aware of these standards. The social media companies should carry out campaigns to sensitize their users to understand the guidelines on the content allowed and actions they can take upon detection of a content that is not within the standards.

The coordination of human and artificial intelligence to review the content being broadcasted should be made efficient and effective. The key challenge in this is the question of at what point the review should occur. If this happens before the content is made live, it may create a lag period thereby contradicting the idea of being live-streaming. The previous system used to did not happen in real-time and required users to report a content, which would then be reviewed by a team. An artificial intelligence tool should have the capability of determining what is happening in real-time and flagging a violent content (Guynn, 2017).

Ethics Officer Facebook

A review of the Facebook corporate governance, it became clear that the company does not have an ethics officer or an oversight committee. After the increased cases of violent broadcasts, suggestions have been made for the company to hire chief ethics officer. These officers could be assistance to the company by helping the executive management in dealing with difficult, critical decisions. They would also be of assistance in setting up ethical guidelines for the companies. It is clear that the artificial intelligence using the technology and algorithms cannot make sound ethical decisions.

Changes that Facebook should adopt to Enhance Ethical Studies on their Platform

Facebook should embark on continued research in the issues related with usage of the social media platforms. The social media technology is still developing and continues being embedded in the social way of life. Research should be integrated into product development cycle to ensure that every product released takes into account the ethical considerations.

Facebook should have an ethics department focused on guiding its operations within the ethical standards. With an ethical department, Facebook is proactive in adherence to the principles and core standards of ethics. The company has been caught in situations requiring it to react to an ethical fallout. This was after the emotional contagion study launched by the company was questioned and subjected to ethical scrutiny. Such a case could have been foreseen by the ethical team and adjustments made beforehand.  


Guynn, J. (2017). Zuckerberg: We’re Responsible for Halting Violent Content on Facebook. USA Today.

Newcomb, A. (2017). Cleveland Shooting Highlights Facebook’s Responsiblity in Policing Depraved Videos. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/cleveland-shooting-highlights-facebook-s-responsibility-policing-depraved-videos-n747306

Turner, K. (2016). AI May Soon Monitor Your Live Videos on Twitter, Facebook. The Washington Post.

White, M. (2017). What Accountailty does Facebook have? Retrieved from http://houstonianonline.com/2017/04/25/what-accountability-does-facebook-have/

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