Why Facebook Struggles to Deter Violent Videos

In the wake of murders and other violent crimes captured on video, and posted to Facebook, the social network finds itself being held accountable for sharing its users’ worst behavior.

By Alain StephensApril 27, 2017 5:31 pm| ,

Facebook has recently found itself under scrutiny, following user postings of videos that depict real, and often violent, acts of crime. Now the social media platform is trying control what many say may be uncontrollable – the viral nature of social media.

Digital savant Omar Gallaga of the Austin American-Statesman’s 512 Tech says that Facebook is making efforts to implement suicide prevention tools, and more effective flagging that would allow users to identify harmful content. But it may not be enough.

“Some of these tools already exist and are not apparently effective because these videos are still staying online way too long,” Gallaga says.

Some videos depict violence at political protests, or are used as evidence of conflict, such as police brutality. In these cases, Gallaga says that an algorithm that can distinguish between the violence of a crime or suicide and that of a protest is too difficult to develop, at least right now.

“The problem is, nobody wants Facebook to censor videos before they even exist,” Gallaga says. “Nobody wants an algorithm going through saying ‘this is good, this is bad,’” Gallaga says. “The technology is not there to really tell the difference yet. You still need human eyes to gauge some of that.”

When looking toward solutions, Gallaga says that Facebook has been urged to focus on faster response times rather than attempting to vet videos before they appear online.

“The biggest criticism that Facebook is facing right now is, ‘why are these videos staying on Facebook so long’ once people have said get rid of this,” Gallaga says.

Gallaga says solutions will likely involve a mix of human response and automated programs.
Written by Emma Whalen.