Live Streaming Crime

Kirk Kitson, Music Page Editor

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Live streaming has become extraordinarily popular during the current decade. From the days of Justin Kan livecasting himself in 2007 on his site Justin.tv to the birth of Twitch, Periscope, and Facebook Live, livestreaming is a relatively new form of media that has seen tremendous growth. Many people who attend WVHS use live streaming services such as Facebook Live. WVHS senior Kris Manzano said, “I don’t use Facebook Live, but my friends use it and I have been using Facebook Live through their accounts.” However, a worrisome occurrence that is now taking shape is the rise of streaming dangerous acts against society. While livestreaming sites such as Facebook Live aren’t made for streaming crime, crimes committed on these types of sites have become a disturbing trend.
This isn’t the first time crime has been videotaped. Only two years ago, in 2015, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a gunman with a body camera strapped to his chest. The gunman then put his video of the murder on the internet. “The broadcasting of horrific violence to mass audiences has a long history, so it’s too simple to blame Facebook Live for inciting criminality,” said Michael Socolow, a media historian at the University of Maine. However, livestreaming crime is different; the crime is done in real time and there is an audience watching the crime being committed live. “I think it’s morbid,” WVHS senior Frances Maysonet said when asked about crimes being committed over Facebook Live. “It’s sick. I don’t like it. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
It has also become more of a problem because it is harder to regulate and control. For example, a livestream of a father killing a child in Thailand was on Facebook for 24 hours before being taken down. A video of the killing of Robert Godwin Sr. in Cleveland was not taken down until it had reached millions of views and posted elsewhere. The torturing of a young mentally disabled man by four Chicago teenagers reached 16,000 simultaneous views. “This isn’t like Facebook posts that get to sit there for a few hours,” said Emmett Shear, the chief executive of livestreaming site Twitch. “This is like, you gotta be on it 30 seconds after they posted it, because that’s the entire window of impact.”
One of the most disturbing aspects of crime committed during a livestream is the fact that there are sometimes many people watching it in real time, but no one does anything to stop the event from occurring.This could feed into the perpetrator’s sense of ego; they may already be committing the crime to gain attention, and the fact that they have an audience means that their desire is being fulfilled. For example, after attacking the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that would claim the lives of 49 people, the shooter called a local news station and checked Facebook to see if his attack “went viral”. “I think people are not worried about the repercussions. They aren’t worried about the severity, they want notoriety, they want to be recognized, they want to be liked,” WVHS Criminal Law and Justice teacher Scott Meyer said when asked why a criminal would stream their crime online. “I also don’t think they realize the severity of what they’re doing, because obviously they are showing off(so to speak) and they don’t think the punishment will outweigh the pleasure. They are getting something out of it; they are getting fame and likes. They want people to look at it.”
On April 18th, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the rise of violence being depicted on Facebook Live at a keynote in San Jose. “We have a lot more to do here. And we’re reminded of this this week by the tragedy in Cleveland.” Zuckerberg later went on to state that his company “will do all we can to prevent this tragedy from happening” before quickly shifting topics away from Facebook Live. This response garnered criticism from major news outlets, with CNN calling it a “cursory mention” of the tragedy and according to New York Magazine, “barely a mention”. On May 3, Facebook announced that in response to the growth of violent incidents on their platform, they will hire 3,000 additional members to the community operations.
While moderating a live stream is challenging, it is apparent that it needs to be done in order to stop this type of crime from being displayed and to identify the people involved. Greater moderation tools are needed; the longer they are absent, the more crimes will be displayed. More legislation needs to be enacted in order to curb this trend of crime committed on live streaming websites. As WVHS teacher Scott Meyer said, “Hopefully somebody will hold them accountable. If not, we are numbing ourselves to it if we don’t react to this.” Lastly, audiences exposed to this type of criminality have a duty as citizens and members of society to speak out and act fast: let law enforcement know about the broadcast and report the broadcast to the website.

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The student news site of Warwick Valley High School
Live Streaming Crime