Insidious Internet

Livestreams have become a frequent platform for violence

Staff Editorial

When teenagers get home from school, one of the first things they do is log onto Facebook and look through their feed, posting, liking, commenting and then, watching. Although posted videos usually show mind-blowing facts or hilarious taste tests, other real-time videos, made possible through livestream services like Facebook Live, show some of the worst violence that society has to offer, from kidnappings to police shootouts.

The problem with livestreaming, besides the potential risk as a platform violence, is the fear of influencing users through exposure. Facebook Live gives almost 1.86 billion monthly active users (according to Statista) the ability to live stream, but the service has become more disturbing to viewers who are exposed to violent acts caught on camera. For exampl

Art by: Alyssa Ochoa

e, a brutal video of four Chicago adults beating and torturing a mentally disabled man is just one of the many violent live streams to surface from Facebook’s newest feature. These events caught on camera and broadcasted live online are becoming a big concern among internet users everywhere, especially considering how hard enough it can be to control how people use their social media accounts, trying to prevent violence from spreading across the internet will make it even harder on social media creators.

Aside from just physical violence, other ethical and legal issues come up with the presence of live streams. At a conference in Silicon Valley, attendees could not use Meerkat, a live video streaming app, due to the potential abuse of the app to leak copyrighted information. According to GO-Gulf, a web design company, there are over 146 million visits to piracy sites. Livestreaming only makes pirated content even easier to access, as websites such as Facebook have become a part of daily life.

The graphic content can be triggers or bring up traumatic memories to users who accidentally stumble upon them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, witnessing traumatic events can cause episodes of psychosis. Last May, Facebook started deleting visually graphic content after advocates, such as the Family Online Safety Institute stated that such disturbing images could damage a child as young as 13 psychologically. Facebook, however, then reevaluated their policy and allowed such videos to be posted, stating that users have a right to show what they want to the world. Reputable organizations have tried making it clear that livestreaming can have a harmful mental effect on teens, but web giants like Facebook haven’t fully gotten the message.

Regardless of whether or not users should be allowed to post what they want, one of the biggest concerns about such allowances is the chance of causing an increase in violent acts. Assistant professor at Lehigh University Jeremy Littau, who studies the impact of social media on society, said that the likelihood of “copycat” events increase the more these acts are committed. The risk of increasing violence needs to be considered when weighing the freedom to post any and all content. A Miami teen, Nakia Venant, live streamed her death using Facebook live. Another Facebook user, Jay Browdy, an aspiring actor, also used Facebook Live to announce his plan to kill himself before taking his own life on the streets of Los Angeles. Facebook’s spokesperson made a statement about the events, saying that they do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook, but other adolescents may be influenced by these examples, ideating suicide as the only way out.

Social media is an outlet that influences all of its users. Students need to make good use of reporting functions on social media sites, while parents and teachers need to discuss the dangers involved with livestreaming. Facebook should be expected to take more action on violent occurrences and find ways to prevent them before it gets out of hand, but with so many forms of social media, the mission to keep livestreams safe will be difficult, as it requires regulation of everything that is posted by billions of people every day