The Santa Clara
May 4, 2017
When Facebook launched their live broadcasting feature, the intention was never to create a platform for heinous, violent crimes to be publicly displayed. However, over the past year, this clearly has become a problem for Facebook.
In the month of April alone, multiple murders have been exposed on Facebook live. A man in Thailand broadcast himself murdering his 11-month-old daughter, then turned the camera off and hung himself.
The same month, a man now identified as Steve Stephens used the Facebook Live feature to display himself shooting and killing a 74-year-old man, Robert Godwin Sr. Following the murder, he broadcast himself explaining the reason for his violent actions through Facebook Live once again.
These are only some of the most recent examples of violent acts live-streamed on Facebook. As more individuals use this platform to show their crimes, it raises the question of who is responsible and how they can be stopped.
In an effort to limit the occurrence of such atrocious actions, Facebook has announced they will be hiring 3,000 people—in addition to their 4,500 current employees— to work on reviewing reports of inappropriate material and removing those videos. But, while Facebook should be proactive in monitoring the Live feature, Facebook is not the problem.
The real issue is the people who sit idly by as they watch and share these videos.
Yes, the people that are perpetuating these crimes are the ultimate party at fault in these situations. Murder, sexual assault and other violent crimes are terrible on their own, and displaying them for others to see is all the more horrific. However, live-streaming these crimes to an audience would not be a problem if there was no audience in the first place.
This past March, two teenage boys in Chicago live-streamed themselves sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl on Facebook. More than 40 people watched the live stream while it was happening and not a single one called the police.
Disconnected from the situation, people watch these crimes on their computers as if it were a show. The shock factor takes precedent over the victim in these videos.
And once the crime is done and news networks have extensively covered the details, people go in search for the original video. Maybe they’re watching for entertainment or maybe they’re disgusted by the actions but still want to see it first hand. Either way, they are contributing to the audience watching these crimes.
Facebook Live is a new platform, but the viewing of these violent crimes is not limited to this one social media. Often, police shootings and other crimes are recorded and posted to social media. These videos circulate various social media sites and get high views.
The person that loses in these situation is not the perpetrator of the crime, but the victim. They, along with their family, lose their agency in these instances. Their bodies become displayed for millions to view as the most violating and cruel acts are done to them.
If people need to be shocked by these videos to care for the victim and understand the magnitude of the crime, they should re-examine why this is. If justice will not be served from watching the videos, then they should not be watched.
I say this as someone who has watched these types of videos before. When Eric Garner was choked to death by police officers, we watched the video in a high school class. I went home and watched the video again. Not out of curiosity and interest, but disgust.
I was disgusted by the actions that had lead to his death, and when I think of Eric Garner, I will think of him in the video. However, I would still feel moved and hurt by his death without watching these videos. Now, the only image I have of him is during his death.
Eric Garner, just like the victims in the Facebook Live crimes, did not get to choose how they would be remembered. They did not choose for their last moments and their worst moment to be shared throughout social media.
Sharing and watching these crimes is reminiscent of a time when people would gather around to watch lynchings and executions. In the end, sharing a Facebook live-stream of a crime will not help the victim and it will not eliminate similar crimes from occurring. It only forces the victim to be remembered for their last moment. Rather than immediately blame Facebook, people should question the motive behind those watching the videos in the first place.
Veronica Marquez is a sophomore communication and ethnic studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.