Facebook Promises to Improve Controls After Man Livestreams Murder

The company called it a 'horrific crime' and provided a time line

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A day after a suspect killed an elderly man in Cleveland and streamed it on Facebook Live, the social network said it’s reviewing the way it receives reports about content that violates its policies. In a blog post published today, the company called the event a “horrific crime” that has “no place on Facebook and goes against our policies and everything we stand for.”

Facebook provided a detailed account of when the event happened and how long it took for the company to find out about it. According to Facebook, it took more than an hour and 45 minutes for the video to reach the reporting system and then another 23 minutes before the company disabled the suspect’s account. Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vp of global operations, said, “We know we need to do better.”

“Keeping our global community safe is an important part of our mission,” Osofsky wrote. “We are grateful to everyone who reported these videos and other offensive content to us and to those who are helping us keep Facebook safe every day.”

Osofsky said Facebook is exploring ways to use emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to prevent videos like Sunday’s from being shared in their entirely while allowing individuals and news outlets to share parts of videos to either condemn or raise awareness of violent or offensive ideas and acts.

“Currently, thousands of people around the world review the millions of items that are reported to us every week in more than 40 languages,” Osofsky said. “We prioritize reports with serious safety implications for our community and are working on making that review process go even faster.”

Here’s Facebook’s account of the time line from Sunday:

  • 11:09 a.m., PDT – First video (of the intent to murder) is uploaded. It’s not reported to Facebook.
  • 11:11 a.m., PDT  – Second video (of the shooting) is uploaded.
  • 11:22 a.m., PDT – Suspect confesses to murder while using Facebook Live.
  • 11:27 a.m., PDT – The livestream ends.
  • 12:59 p.m., PDT – The video of the shooting is first reported.
  • 1:22 p.m., PDT – The suspect’s account is disabled. All videos are no longer visible to the public.

The video from Cleveland wasn’t the only death in the past week related to a livestream on a Facebook product. Last week, a teenager in Georgia accidentally shot himself while broadcasting a live video on Instagram Stories. He died soon after in a hospital.

Other tech companies have also struggled lately to keep violent or offensive user-generated content off their platforms. Since March, Google has sought to regain or maintain trust after advertisers complained about their ads showing up alongside terrorist or racist content.