Long live death, the impossible challenge on social media

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San Francisco (AFP) – Less than two minutes. That’s how long it took Twitch to boycott the live broadcast of Saturday’s buffalo shooting, which didn’t stop the snippets from circulating.

Despite advances in technology, preventing violent images from being broadcast live remains a challenge, especially since the legal framework is almost non-existent.

“If they (the platforms) show a live broadcast, they expose themselves to retransmit a certain number of rapes, murders, suicides and other crimes,” says Mary Ann Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami. “It’s part of a lot.”

The hundred seconds it took Twitch to learn about the “live broadcast” of Payton Gendron, who killed ten people at a supermarket in upstate New York on Saturday, testifies to the increased response.

In March 2019, Facebook took 17 minutes to stop the Brenton Tarrant attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 51 people.

Even worse, in October 2019, also on Twitch this time, the author of the attack on a synagogue in Halle (Germany) was able to simultaneously upload his trip for 35 minutes, before disconnecting.

If the major social networks claim to track these videos with the help of artificial intelligence but also with dedicated teams, the images can be downloaded, edited and quickly published on other sites ready to host them.

On Wednesday, the site showed several excerpts from the shooting, including a 90-second clip, which has been viewed nearly 1,800 times since Sunday, and was removed later in the day.

Despite advances in technology, preventing the transmission of live violent images remains a challenge Martin Borough Agence France-Presse / The Archives

The circulation of violent content outside the guidance itself is almost systematic, as there are no applicable texts to prevent it.

“In the United States, posting a live video (from Buffalo) is not illegal,” said Ari Cohen of think-tank TechFreedom. “It does not fall into a form of expression not protected by the United States Constitution.”

perpetual pursuit

For more established sites, spotting this violent content, often brought back online in a new format, a new title, is a perennial hunt, explains a Facebook spokesperson.

Twitter follows a policy of suspending accounts for suspected attackers and also allows itself to “remove tweets that post data or content” produced by these authors.

In an exchange with reporters on Tuesday, Meta’s vice president of content safety, Jay Rosen, explained that filters need to be carefully calibrated to avoid redacting relevant images, such as news videos or testimonials from people condemning the attacks.

Despite the investment of major platforms, preventing someone from going live even for a few seconds from a violent act remains, by definition, impossible.

“The main problem is when technology groups decide, for the general public,” that life “is a tool whose usefulness outweighs imperfections,” Mary Ann Franks offers.

However, at a time when video is the main driver of the growth of social networks, ‘live’ does not appear to be under threat, especially with the advent of direct sales, a new method of online commerce that has its wind in its villains.

Despite the investment of major platforms, preventing someone from going live even for a few seconds of violent action remains, by definition, impossible.
Despite the investment of major platforms, preventing someone from going live even for a few seconds of violent action remains, by definition, impossible. Denise Sharlet

Twitch, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube all offer live broadcasts, with the exception of Snapchat only.

In writings attributed to him, the alleged Buffalo shooter described the possibility of being able to broadcast his attack live as a “motive” factor.

In the absence of federal legislation, it is up to the US states to take the lead on the matter.

In Texas, a law passed last September aims to prevent social networks from rejecting content based on its author’s “view”. It has been criticized as potentially limiting moderation and allowing the circulation of violent messages or images.

“The recent (Buffalo) tragedy underscores that this is not a partisan issue,” said Matt Schroers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

“Hindering the industry when it wants to go after the bad stuff has life and death consequences.”

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