The dangers of Facebook Live

Updated: Apr. 17, 2017 at 12:01 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - On Sunday, a man used Facebook Live to claim killing more than a dozen people. He then posted a video of him murdering a man at random on his Facebook page. After several recent violent and illegal acts posted live on Facebook, is live streaming on social media safe?

Popular social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Periscope, now gives anybody the capability to broadcast live events to all digital users. More and more violent incidents, including several recent suicides, are being shown live. Two teens in Chicago were recently arrested for live streaming on Facebook a sexual assault of a teenage girl. Also in Chicago, four teens were arrested after a Facebook Live video showed an 18-year-old with physical needs physically and verbally assaulted in January. Although it was not streamed live online, a shooter killed Virginia television reporter Alison Park and cameraman Adam Ward during a 2015 live television newscast. The shooter then posted a first-person perspective video of the shooting to his Facebook page.

Anybody can sign in to their accounts, go live, and the acts, whether legal or illegal, are shown. With the ease and accessibility of going live, there is no way to moderate the content that is broadcast. A concern of this capability is who saw the broadcast? With Sunday's tragic shooting that was posted to Facebook, who was the audience? It is possible that underage children witnessed the innocent elderly man fatally shot in the head.

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor at Syracuse University, says the increase in these incidents being posted live is partly because the poster is usually seeking some sort of fame or accreditation. In Sunday's incident, the suspect in the shooting blames his actions on his mother and his ex-girlfriend. Moments before shooting the victim, he said, "She's the reason this is about to happen."

Grygiel also says there are no safeguards with live streaming. Warnings can be given or posted in advance for content that is shared, but with live streaming, there is no advanced notice. The video is shown in real time.

One way to improve monitoring live streaming material, according to Grygiel, is to introduce age restrictions to the poster and viewers. She also suggests using a timed-delay, similar to how television is usually broadcast.

Facebook now allows the audience to report a live stream if the content is offensive or inappropriate, but Grygiel says most users don't know about that function.

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