by Braiden Davis, a CDAE/Public Communication major at the University of Vermont.
Imagine having the capability to reach millions of people from around the world by simply taking your phone out of your pocket and starting an app. Well, this is a reality. In 2016, one of Facebook’s newest adventures in their goal for ever-increasing sharing resulted in the addition of Facebook Live. Facebook Live has the capability to share and connect people endlessly. However, just like so many things in today’s society and culture, Facebook Live also poses many dangers and has the opportunity to be exploited and abused quite easily.
Facebook Live allows you to live-video stream to your friends and followers in real time, capturing any moment you’d like. Julia Greenberg from WIRED writes “with more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, Facebook has a real opportunity to showcase breaking news, intimate personal moments, and behind the scenes stories from just about anywhere in a way that surpasses TV network.” If Facebook Live is used as it is intended than yes, the world is your oyster and you be able to connect positively with people from all walks of life. However, there is a much darker side to Facebook’s newest feature. Since its launch in 2016, Facebook Live has been home to many dangerous, explicit and even world-shattering video streams. For example, in June of 2016, after killing a French police commander and the commander’s partner in Magnanville, France, a 25-year-old terrorist took to Facebook Live moments after to confess his commitment to ISIS for the entire world to watch. CNN reported that this “was a reminder that such an immediate form of communication carries inherent dangers.”
As we look further into the dangers of Facebook Live, no one can forget the horrendous live-stream, step-by-step murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Jr. Godwin’s murderer, Steve Stephens, took to Facebook Live and shared his despicable plot and execution to the world, “Stephens uploaded his first video at 11:09 p.m. on Sunday evening, declaring his intent to murder. Two minutes later, he uploaded a video that showed him gunning down his victim, Godwin.” Facebook declared that the live video of Stephens shooting Godwin was watchable on Facebook for two hours until it was removed. Events like this put Facebook Live drastically into the dangerous category. There are many more incidents involving violence, hatred unspeakable acts that have been streamed live through Facebook Live for the world to watch. The low level of difficulty to share and view these events is exactly what makes Facebook Live so hazardous.
Published media sources such as CNN, The Federalist and WIRED have examined Facebook Live in many different lights. These outlets have stated, “the only way to combat such a thing is to limit Facebook’s scope and power – limiting what it’s capable of, in terms of instantaneous audience outreach and viral capability.” However, that is in direct opposition to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg’s lifestyle and company mission. In the end, Facebook Live brings with it the opportunity to share heinous and explicit material instantly to a massive audience. Ultimately, the only way to ensure the prevention of these acts is to eliminate Facebook’s live capability.