With the rise of social media came the need to share, perhaps to excessive levels as anyone has likely seen on their own News Feed or Twitter Timeline. As technological innovations thrust themselves upon Silicon Valley firms, companies such as Facebook have co-opted these new items as a means of providing users with a new way to share: live and on-demand. Figures certainly point toward an interest in the use of live technologies – according to marketing analysis site Mediakix, search interest in Facebook Live has grown nearly 330 percent since the feature’s rollout August 2015. While specific statistics are not readily available regarding the use of Instagram Live, an audience certainly exists; Instagram has an estimated active 400 million users. The uses of live broadcasts are by most standards innocuous, but as they are unmonitored and uncensored, there is unfortunately the inevitable risk of nefarious use. Such uses have resulted in increased scrutiny and criticism due to the lack of monitoring of live implements; the technology certainly exists to do so – thus, it should be in use.
Multiple cases of deaths or murders being broadcast on Facebook’s live platform have made headlines over the past several months, including the murder of 74 year-old Ohioan Robert Godwin, Sr. and a murder-suicide perpetrated by a father from Phuket, Thailand. While these events bookended Facebook’s annual developer’s conference, the company’s reaction was largely blasé to the notion that their technology could be used for unintended purposes. However, it has become evident that Facebook and Instagram’s movement toward live technology has made them more than just social media and sharing sites: they’ve become news aggregates, means by which we are informed, rather than simply amused. It is for this reason that greater emphasis must be placed upon maintaining a semblance of standard for live broadcasts. If this is the role that has been thrust upon Facebook, it is the company’s responsibility to prioritize actions necessary to shielding audiences from subversive, graphic or offensive material; the aforementioned situations are both apropos of this reality, as the Live implement provides for broadcasted video to be uploaded to Facebook upon the broadcast’s completion – videos of both situations were present on Facebook for upwards of 12 hours before being removed.
The technology and resources certainly exist for Facebook to actively monitor live broadcasts. The question is whether they are willing to spend the money required to hire editors and staff and to purchase server-side video analysis technology. No matter the company’s willingness, as incidents such as live broadcasts of torture, rape or even death become more prevalent, it will become far more untenable for Facebook to allow their users to possess such a great deal of freedom with the content they choose to display via Facebook or Instagram Live. At this point, the few incidents that have been observed are already far too many, and for Facebook to make an earnest change, it is perhaps the public that must push the company to alter regulations and take necessary measures. Otherwise, the relationship between live and death may continue with little intervention.