Facebook isn’t to blame for the Facebook Live killer

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

19 April 2017

Facebook Live was simply the venue, not the cause

Few things have been more disturbing that the live feed of the Facebook Live killer in Cleveland. Something about the befuddled 74-year-old victim’s reaction as Steve Stephens explained he was going to kill him struck me hard.

Thankfully, a McDonalds employee recognized Stephens and notified authorities. Minutes later, Stephens killed himself when police arrived.

“To put that genie back in the bottle is simply wishful thinking and not helpful to solving the real problems of poverty, race and mental illness that create these hateful acts.”

Facebook LiveNow that the nightmare is over (although not for the victim’s family), outrage is flooding social media over Facebook’s attempt to censor Facebook Live material that is downright evil. This isn’t the first time Facebook Live has broadcast this kind of material. A police shooting in Minnesota was streamed live. Three men in Sweden did the same while committing rape. And there have been others, including beatings and torture.

Is this the fault of Facebook?

Facebook Live isn’t going anywhere

No, it isn’t. Although, yes, stricter control of Facebook Live broadcasts would be welcome. But the genie is out of the bottle. Twitter and YouTube also feature live streams, considered to be exciting ways to get viewers.

Would have the criminals done their deeds if they couldn’t stream it live? That’s a difficult question. You could argue that the live aspect gives the perpetrators more notoriety and, therefore, greater motivation.

But this is akin to the argument that violent movies or video games give rise to greater violence. I don’t think it’s a one-to-one ratio. Millions of people watch violent movies, play disturbing video games or stream Facebook Live without hurting anyone. The criminals already had a tendency toward these violent acts.

In the face of unexplainable tragedy, we humans often look for blame. It’s the reason why conspiracy theories are so rampant in the light of, let’s say, 9/11 or landing on the moon. There must be an explanation for this unexplainable incident, they think. The US government allowing 9/11 to happen seems plausible to them. Facebook Live is to blame.

So before we all go apeshit over the role Facebook played here, a word of caution. Just because there was a venue for this heinous act does not mean that venue is to blame. We live in a world where everything is out there for everyone to see. To put that genie back in the bottle is simply wishful thinking and not helpful to solving the real problems of poverty, race and mental illness that create these hateful acts.

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