On Easter, Steve Stephens drove around downtown Cleveland on what he said was a mission to commit murder — and soon he had an audience of millions for his shooting of Robert Godwin Sr., 74, which he recorded and posted on Facebook, the police in Cleveland said, reports The New York Times, which, in part, added:

“On Monday, the authorities nationwide were looking for Mr. Stephens, 37, with the police as far away as Philadelphia saying they had received calls about sightings of him in that area.

“Now Facebook is facing a backlash over the shooting video, as it grapples with its role in policing content on its global platform.

“It is an issue that Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has had to contend with more frequently as it has bet big on new forms of media like live video, which give it a venue for more lucrative advertising. The criticism of Facebook over Mr. Stephens’s video built swiftly Monday, with critics calling it a dark time for the company and outrage spreading on social media over how long it had taken — more than two hours — for the video to be pulled down. Ryan A. Godwin, the victim’s grandson, pleaded with other users on social media to stop sharing the video online.

“The situation is increasingly fraught for Facebook. Even as it has become a forum for more sensational events, live and otherwise, it has said it does not want to be a media company that overly arbitrates what is posted on its site. But the more reluctant it is to intervene or the slower it is to respond, the more it may open itself to the posting of killings, sexual assaults and other crimes.

““Any of these platforms — especially live ones — encourages users to perform,” said Elizabeth Joh, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. “Should Facebook have a duty to rescue a crime victim? Should we, or is it O.K. for thousands or millions of people to watch a crime unfold without doing anything except sharing it?”

“Justin Osofsky, a vice president of Facebook, said in a public post late Monday that the company knows “we need to do better” to stop videos like that of the shooting from appearing. He said the company was working to ensure that such content and reports of it can be flagged faster, including through the use of artificial intelligence and a better review process.

““It was a horrific crime — one that has no place on Facebook, and goes against our policies and everything we stand for,” Mr. Osofsky wrote.

“Facebook’s dilemma is part of a debate that has pulled in other technology giants, including Twitter, Amazon and Google. As these companies have rushed to provide tools for people to widely share their intimate moments more frequently, they are dealing with a rising tide of calls to more proactively filter the type of content that appears. In recent weeks, Google’s YouTube has been scrutinized for posting advertising next to racist video content, while Twitter contends with hate speech almost daily.

“But the attention is often focused on Facebook because of its nearly two billion users and global influence.”

For the complete New York Times story, click here.

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