While social media is being pilloried for not limiting the spread of the Christchurch massacre video, I believe that blaming these platforms is an exercise in folly.
This morning, headline font, heads of government and talking heads all pushed the same message: They believed that social media was to blame for Christchurch massacre. These platforms allowed that vicious video to spread, they were slow in banning it, and as a result, we all saw what we certainly shouldn’t have. According to Techcrunch.com, “Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos from its site within the first 24 hours. In a series of tweets, Facebook’s Mia Garlick said a total of 1.2 million videos were blocked at the point of upload. Videos that included “praise or support” from the attack were also removed, she said, using a mix of automated technologies — like audio detection — and human content moderators. Facebook did not say why the 300,000 videos were not caught at upload, representing a 20 per cent failure rate.”
According to Reuters, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that she wants to speak with the company about live streaming, while British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said that such platforms must act, and raised the question about regulation.
To be perfectly frank, I was spared the grim realities of what murder actually looked like prior to the age of Facebook. Since, I’ve become quite familiar with it. Long before Christchurch there was the story of a man named Johnathon, who live-streamed the murder of his partner, and before that, the chap who took revenge on a news crew with a camera of his own. Each time, they were streamed on that platform, and each time they pulled the plug far too late.
Some suggest this is a complicit move on their behalf, as the founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton criticised Facebook and Google’s poor track record when moderating content on their platforms. “To be brutally honest, the curated networks — the open networks — struggle to decide what’s hate speech and what’s not hate speech. Google struggles with what’s a good website and what’s a bad website,” he said, as quoted by BuzzFeed News.
However, as a rival to Facebook, his comments to delete the platform adds a considerable amount of salt to his claims. Honestly, I believe Facebook to be nothing more than a societal mirror, they might have turned us into dopamine addicts of the highest order, but they’ve merely monetised (and transformed) an ancient trait we all cultivate possess. We all long to be seen, and be noticed. While Facebook has enabled this, they certainly didn’t put the guns in the hands of an angry few. The issue should remain about the normalisation of extremism and the ease of procuring automatic weaponry, not the platform that magnifies the brutal conclusion.