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Last month, less than 15 miles away from where I live, a 14-year-old broadcast her own suicide on Facebook Live and it quickly spread. Around the same time in Chicago, police charged four people with kidnapping, battery, and hate crimes after they posted a video in which they bound and beat a person with disabilities. Over the last year, Facebook has struggled to remove or moderate videos of abuse, violence and self-harm on its platform.
What Facebook Live offers users isn't new; it's just new to Facebook (Since December 2015). People can now publically share videos on major players such as YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram (Facebook-owned). "Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it's going to create new opportunities for people to come together," says CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has 1.86 billion users worldwide that can all be posting and streaming at any given time.
Just a few days ago on Wednesday night, before going to bed, I found out that Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for impugning a fellow senator's character so she took to Facebook Live to finish her remarks. To be able to watch this live felt like I was watching something live of importance and that I was supporting it as well.
With such content so readily available parents and educators should be aware of the dangers that can come with it. Children can be followed and viewed by adults; kids unknowingly freely give out their social media details for random followers to connect with them; people can comment while people are broadcasting and some people are mean and brutal; kids commonly live broadcast alone in their bedrooms; some apps have in-app purchases to send virtual things to other people so beware of any connected bank accounts; children (as young as 12 or 13) were often found to hide conversations from their parents.
Facebook has a real opportunity to showcase breaking news, intimate personal moments, and behind-the-scenes stories from just about anywhere in a way that surpasses TV networks. Founder Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company.” It will be hard for the company to keep the two things entirely separate and decisions will no longer be so simple for the platform. It will be seeking input from “law enforcement officials and safety advocates” to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them. All this is to say that parents and educators should continue to take steps to make their children’s experiences as safe and as enjoyable as possible. What has been your experience with live streaming and do you know which social media apps your children are using to get their daily “news”?