Facebook Live is an impressive way to stream live video and audio to your follows in real time – simply push the button and your entire Facebook network can tune in to whatever it is you’re broadcasting. Like Twitter’s Periscope app, people normally use live streaming to share, in real time, concerts, sporting events, parties or have a rant at the world. It’s a free, fast and effective way to share your world with your Facebook followers. It gives a voice to anyone and everyone.
Like most things involving the internet, Facebook Live reflects the best and worst of our society. We have seen the gang-rape of a woman in Sweden, a teenager with special needs was beaten and tortured, and one man ended up broadcasting his own murder to all his followers on Facebook. It’s also getting caught up in intellectual property theft through users streaming live TV without permission. This sort of criminal activity is normally hidden away from the mainstream of the internet – no one would accuse one of the world’s most popular social networks of facilitating murder after all. But this week we see a 14 year old boy being arrested for the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl in Chicago, with the act being broadcast on Facebook Live. This shocking act is never acceptable in real life, and it’s worth asking whether the benefits of Facebook Live outweigh the damage it’s doing.
Facebook Live should do more to protect users, especially young people. When customers enter Facebook, they expect a curated stream of content, news, videos and cats that reflects their network and interests. With Facebook Live however, they get an unedited view into other people’s lives that will often be different from the standard news feed. Facebook Live should make it clearer when people enter a live stream that they are seeing something unedited, and the contents may not be what they expect. They should monitor and set rules around who can join a live stream (or have the streamer set the rules), especially if the streamer is a child. The ability to report a live stream for illegal activity is nowhere to be found when watching, and the ability to escalate a streamer to Beyond Blue or law enforcement in real time is sadly missing. All of these controls exist in the real world in some way, if live streaming is to remain a part of Facebook then these need to be built to maintain it’s place as a positive and productive part of our digital lives.
However it’s not completely fair that Facebook takes the heat for what is ultimately our responsibility. Facebook Live reflects us as a society, warts and all, and it’s up to us as responsible digital citizens to do our bit to make it an overwhelmingly safe and positive place. If we saw someone in pain on the street, most of us would ask if they’re ok and offer to call a doctor. If we see a serious car accident, we call 000. If we see something criminal happening, we call law enforcement and move away. Why don’t we do this to the same extent with Facebook Live? If we see someone in needing help on a live stream, we can still offer it as their friend or involve a mental health or ambulance service. If we see something criminal, we should report it to law enforcement and turn the stream off. Good citizenship means showing an interest and getting involved in making your community a better place. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing that for our online communities as well.
Learn more about online Trust and Safety and https://trustandsafetyanz.wordpress.com/.