Gunfire rings out during a traffic stop. Within a few moments, Philando Castille was slumped over the steering wheel – killed when a Minnesota police officer opened fire. Also, within those moments, Castille’s girlfriend – Diamond Reynolds - who was sitting in the passenger seat, pulled out her cell phone and started broadcasting the bloody and emotional aftermath on Facebook Live. One viewer commented: “Don’t stop recording.”
The video was seen more than 4-million times within the first 24-hours after the shooting. It recorded her talking to the police officer while he pointed his gun through the window, her four-year-old daughter was in the back seat.
In USA Today, Steve Jones, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, calls it a “watershed moment" when people begin streaming live whenever they get pulled over during a traffic stop or during any other run-in with the law. It is the era of personal body cameras and it comes two years after widespread calls for police departments across the country to acquire the technology for their officers.
Smartphones are also turning ordinary people into pocket newscasters thanks to a growing number of apps, from Facebook to Twitter-owned, Periscope. They’re recording civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, and the Democratic “Sit-in” inside the House of Representatives to protest stalled gun control legislation.
Benjamin Burroughs, a media professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, tells USA Today “it’s becoming a tool for citizens to bypass traditional media and connect in real time with viewers who feel as if they are present.”
Meantime, there are dangers associated with these streaming events and video. Burroughs says they’ve become, “a kind of voyeurism and click-bait journalism,” rather than, “a discussion about meaningful reform to the criminal justice system.”
Facebook is also scrambling trying to meet the challenges of moderating all that video. A good example is when, back in June, an Islamic State sympathizer posted a 12-minute rant threatening future attacks after killing a police commander and his partner in their home outside of Paris. Facebook removed the video.
But the next day, a video purportedly showing a gunman killing a Chicago area man was allowed to stay with a disclaimer it contained graphic content.
Reynolds’ video was pulled for about an hour. Facebook claimed it was a technical glitch and restored the video after about an hour, but this time, with a warning that the video was graphic.
Facebook says it removes posts and videos with violence or graphic content that celebrates or glorifies violence. But it does not remove content being shared to condemn or raise awareness about violence.
How do you feel about Facebook Live Video? Let us know in the comments.