Sunday, March 17, 2019

Livestream and rapid spread of violent videos (especially Christchurch) seems to lead to draconian warnings from platforms

According to NBC News (no link so far), tech companies (especially Facebook and YouTube) are so pressured by the Christchurch incident that they have said they will close the account of anyone who attempts to upload the full video, or even an edited video (to remove the most graphic violence) of the incident, or even who posts praise or support of the perpetrator(s) or their actions.

The post or praise thing is a very slippery slope indeed.

Shibani Mahtani reported late Sunday that Facebook had removed 1.5 million copies, and had to look for many more, which will exist on the dark web.

As for the title of this blog, “films” involving threats to personal freedom, the17-minute livestream video would logically qualify as a “subject” since it exists and certainly represents a threat. I have not seen it and don’t intend to. (I did read the “manifesto”).  Under New Zealand law, sharing of a violent crime-in-progress video is itself a crime (even after the incident). 

I can remember as a child my parents wouldn’t let me see violence until about age 13 or so.  I actually would have been very traumatized by this. I can remember being rather scared by “The Clutching Hand” on “Movies for Kids” on Saturday mornings when I was about 10. (Choir practice eventually stopped that.)

On the video above (6 min), Ford Fischer (owner of News2Share in Washington DC) discusses the existence and misuse of the tape and manifesto in a session at station I24 News in New York City Friday afternoon March 15.  The video does have a small sample of police activity during the incident. I know the speaker fairy well.  By chance, I was in New York at the same time in a hotel on the upper East Side (to see an unusual play that evening). I found out it was supposed to be on channel 102, but when I went to it, the system told me that the content from that station was no longer available.

Ford talks about the difference (in the case of Trump’s remarks) between condemning specific criminal acts by a specific person, and condemning an ideology.  Many social media and related services have tried to block all content that seems to be associated with the “alt right” (or white supremacy, if that is indeed the same thing). Then you get into a situation where a violent left-wing ideology is permitted but not the right (where they are the same, but where in theory one group is not singled out before mass expropriation starts – in practice the extreme Left (Stalin and North Korea and even Venezuela) has about the same horrific outcomes as Hitler although not always as targeted on specific subgroups. Is the “ideology” (if there is one) of Venezuela’s Chavez or Madura supposed to be unmentionable, then?

There have been other issues with videos and livestreaming of horrific acts (ranging from ISIS to an incident on live TV in Roanike with reporter as the targets, in 2015).  If I were the victim, I don’t have a particular feeling about this personally.
One suggestion might be that Facebook and YouTube could put in 30-second to 1-minute delays during live streaming to give algorithms a better chance of catching some of the worst incidents. On the other hand, livestreaming might help law enforcement reach the site sooner while in progress.

On another occasion, we'll sort out the significance of New Zealand's gun control policy in this incident.

The New York Times has an editorial that certainly hints at slowing down online speech and controlling who is on it more, for the "common good".

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