On Feb. 16, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in his Building Global Community statement
“As we build a global community, this is a moment of truth. Our success isn’t just based on whether we can capture videos and share them with friends. It’s about whether we’re building a community that helps keep us safe – that prevents harm, helps during crises, and rebuilds afterwards.”
These are important words to consider in the wake of Sunday’s horrific murder in Cleveland, a crime that played out for the world to see via Facebook.
Like any new communication technology, there will always be those who mean to corrupt it, to use it for malicious purposes, and to circumvent the altruistic intentions of the medium.
And like every form of communication, those who create a new medium and make it available to the world become targets of contempt the moment the medium is used for a nefarious purpose.
We’ve seen these crimes transpire on television. Not often, but it’s happened. So, it wasn’t a question of if a video like this would be shared on Facebook, but when.
So, as expected, critics quickly emerged Sunday in the wake of the murder to condemn Facebook’s streaming video service.
As news of the murder and manhunt broke, media outlets rolled out a cadre of experts including law enforcement, government officials and pundits, many of whom leveled accusations at Facebook.
But as they spoke, one fact was clear:
Those who were condemning Facebook were from generations of technology immigrants, Boomers and Gen Xers who didn’t grow up with new media. Those who grew up with this technology would have likely offered a competing point of view, likely with messages of hope and trust in video sharing.
When a public relations nightmare hits, Facebook typically turns to their vice president for global operations, Justin Osofsky.
In a post April 17, Osofsky said, “As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible.”
Osofsky pointed out that Facebook is exploring ways that new technologies can help ensure the safer communities to which Zuckerberg referred in his Feb. 16 statement.
“Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety,” Osofsky said.
Facebook is clearly working to enhance the video review process.
One friend posted Sunday, referring to the Facebook murder, “If [Facebook] can deny my video because it contains a few bars from I Walk The Line, certainly they can create an algorithm to find and delete these kinds of videos.”
Like Facebook, we’re all trying to figure out how the streaming of personal videos fit into our daily social media diet. But one thing is for sure: This was one of many big tests for Facebook and it’s way too early for someone to suggest they failed.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.