Digital Influences · Internet · Social Media

Facebook’s Deadly Problem

The Story

A man walking home from Easter dinner, gunned down at random on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio.  As if that isn’t heart-wrenching enough, it was broadcast live for the world to see on a medium that kids, grandmothers and everyone in between uses… Facebook.  In the live streamed video, which authorities authenticated, Steven Stephens was driving and could be heard saying, “Found me somebody I’m going to kill, this guy right here, this old dude.” (Business Insider)

The man hunt for the wanted murderer, Steve Stephens, ended in Erie, PA after a McDonald’s employee at recognized the wanted man, likely from social media posts.  The folks at McDonald’s slowed him down by telling him his fires were not done.  While this didn’t keep Stephens there until police arrived, it did slow him down enough for authorities to catch up to him.  It all ended in parking lot, where Stephens took his own life.  On social media, the McDonald’s workers were hailed as heroes.  I definitely commend their vigilance and quick thinking!

I wish I could say this was a once in a lifetime story.  It’s far from it.  In fact, in Thailand, a man who was upset with his wife, took to Facebook Live and took not only his own life but the life of their child.

So what does Facebook have to say about this?  According to a CBS News, a series of other offensive broadcasts, including sexual assaults, has caused Facebook to seek ways to block such video as quickly as possible.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said last week that his company has “a lot of work” to do on the problem.

Social Media’s influence

What is Facebook’s responsibility in all of this?  With social media and the internet seemingly like the Wild Wild West, where do we draw the line?  I am pretty sure most people would agree, sexual assaults, abuses and murder are against morals.  So why did it take Facebook more than two hours to pull down the video of someone’s murder and why did so many people share that same video (NYTimes)?  Those are questions I don’t have the answers to.

While Facebook is being blasted for its actions, Philadelphia Police took to social media to send a message.  Police rendered a picture of the victim and thanked the McDonald’s employees for taking action.

Philly

RG
Police Rendering of murder victim Robert Godwin Sr. (Philadelphia Police Departmemt)

So there it is, Facebook can be used for both good and evil… at the same time.

Final Thoughts

All social media platforms must take a stance against users conducting this kind of behavior online.  We simply can not let people be murdered and have it potentially broadcast to billions of users.  I know, I know, we don’t want to be censored.  This goes beyond freedom of speech or any other freedoms quite frankly.  While this is not a very bright time for Facebook, I see a really great opportunity for social media giants to come together and collaborate on a way to stop this from happening again.   It may be Facebook’s problem today, but tomorrow it could be someone else’s.

I also think we as humans, need to get back to being human and take personal responsibility for our roles in what we share on social media.

Sources used for this review

CBS News    NYTimes    WTKR News    CBS News/ Philadelphia PD    Cover Photo: Business Insider

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