Disturbing attack streamed on Facebook Live highlights challenge for social media firms

The 30-minute video streamed live on Facebook showed a mentally disabled Chicago man being beaten as he cowered in the corner, his wrists bound and mouth taped shut.

“F‑‑‑ Donald Trump” and “F‑‑‑ white people,” someone shouted in the video.

On Thursday, four black people — including the woman who allegedly streamed the video — were charged with hate crimes, kidnapping, battery and burglary.  Despite the “terrible racist statements,” investigators initially concluded the 18-year-old man was targeted because he has “special needs,” not because he was white, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the press.

Facebook pulled down the video, but by then it had gone viral, reportedly attracting the eyeballs of thousands online.

“We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason. In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

Facebook declined to say how the video was flagged or how long it took for the tech firm to pull it down.

As Facebook Live grows in popularity and more people use the tool to broadcast crimes in real time, the social media company continues to grapple with the challenges that comes with policing violent content online. From fake news to terrorism and nudity, how the company reacts to criminal and violent content isn’t the only uphill battle the tech firm has faced.

For Facebook, it’s a familiar challenge. In June, an Islamic extremist streamed a live video of the murder of a police commander and his wife in France. In July, Facebook Live made headlines again after a woman live-streamed the police shooting of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Twitter’s Periscope has also been struggling with the same issues. Last year, an Ohio teenager was accused of live-streaming her friend’s rape on Periscope.

Facebook let users flag or interrupt a live stream that violate its standards. But deciding what violent content to pull down isn’t always a black-and-white decision.

Facebook has said before that it considers the context and degree of violent and graphic images.

“For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video,” the company said.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama told CBS that he doesn’t think that racial tensions have gotten worse but visuals of racial tensions and violence are being seen more because of smartphones and the internet.

“What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time,” he said in the interview. “Whether it’s tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook.”

Photo: The splash page for Facebook. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)


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  • wplezotte

    “Defense attorneys portrayed the suspects as hardworking, responsible and religious.” Yep…can’t ya just tell…fine educated young black teenagers showing a great example of their handy-work, responsibility, and religious fortitude!

  • Sandy Perry Hooks


  • Carl Webb

    Whites must stand up for whites. Don’t just walk away or look away to be safe. Others will get brave if shown the way’