With Facebook’s live streaming feature gaining mainstream popularity, a lot of questionable content has been shared with the public in steady doses.
On June 13, Larossi Abballa, an Islamic extremist who pledged allegiance to ISIS, live streamed an admission of murdering a French police commander and his partner. The 12-minute video also called on Muslims to launch jihad on “non-believers.” Abballa’s page has since been taken down and the video was pulled by Facebook, citing violations to Facebook’s Community Standards.
On June 15, a 28-year-old man named Anthony Perkins was shot dead in Chicago while he was casually live streaming. The disturbing video is still on Facebook for everyone to view. According to Facebook, the video does not celebrate violence but, in fact, it raises awareness. Because of this, according to them, it does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards.
It all sounds arbitrary because it is. Although Facebook has their Community Standards guideline to determine what is allowed and what isn't, they still rely on user feedback and their team that reviews and judges reported posts.
Live videos are even more difficult to monitor since they happen in real time. Facebook may take up to 24 hours to review a saved live stream and by that time, the video may have already been viewed and gone viral. It is quite the challenge, so user reporting is likely to be more and more critical in keeping the social media site safe and clean for everyone.
If you are a Facebook user and you want to do your part, checking their Community Standards will be a good start.
According to Facebook, Community Standards "will help you understand what type of sharing is allowed on Facebook, and what type of content may be reported to us and removed."
These policies range from helping the user be safe by banning direct threats, self-injury, dangerous organizations like terror groups or organized crime, bullying, attacks on public figures, criminal activity, sexual violence or exploitation and purchase and sale of regulated goods such as drugs, guns and ammunition.
Another section outlines what constitutes respectful and disrespectful content and this is where a fine line is being drawn regularly.
Nudity, in particular, has been a hotbed for controversy because of previous censorship of breastfeeding photos. Facebook admits that "people sometimes share content containing nudity for reasons like awareness campaigns or artistic projects" but they restrict the display of nudity because of the diversity of the audience. Facebook outright bans pictures of genitals, fully exposed buttocks and they restrict images of female breasts, especially if they include the nipple. Interestingly, Facebook states they "allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding," which just shows how arbitrary these review decisions sometimes are.
Other disrespectful content is hate speech or direct attacks on people based on their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities. However, they allow sharing of content containing someone else's hate speech as long as it is used for awareness and the sharing party's intent is clearly indicated. Facebook will also allow responsible humor, satire or social commentary.
Lastly, Facebook censors violent or graphic content that is "shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate or glorify violence." Using this logic, Abballa's live stream of admission to murder and a call for jihad certainly falls under this category, hence the removal.
On the other hand, if a post with violent or graphic content raises awareness or condemns such acts, then Facebook will allow it, albeit with a warning. This is probably why the live stream of the Chicago shooting has not been pulled yet, it raises awareness about the pervasive violence in that particular area.
Again, this all relies on user reporting and a Facebook team of internal reviewers and moderators. Occasional mistakes will surely slip through the cracks from time to time. With millions and millions of posts being shared every day, it is a monumental task to try and monitor each and every one. With the introduction of live streaming, this curation is even tougher than ever and Facebook hopes that responsible users of the community will actually police Facebook itself.
If you want to check out Facebook's Community Standards for yourself, check here.