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Facebook Makes Subjective Decisions On Keeping Violent Live Streams Up

Social platform makes judgement calls on whether to keep or remove violent Facebook Live streams based on tone and purpose.

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Following a week where Facebook Live videos of shootings and their aftermaths played key roles in major events across the United States, Facebook on Friday afternoon released a statement describing what types of violent live video it allows and will allow on its platform. In it, the company said it makes subjective decisions based on context and degree of the videos.

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

This would seem to rule in the video shot by Diamond Reynolds documenting a police shooting earlier this week, while ruling out a video uploaded by, say, a shooter trying to glorify their own acts of violence.

Yet each video, of course, won't fall neatly into one of these two categories. A video celebrating a shooting can also help people find a shooter if the suspect is at large, for example. Ultimately, this means Facebook will be making critically important judgement calls on a case by case basis.

Facebook made no mention of whether it will post information about each takedown of this nature, so it appears the company is asking for the public's trust on this matter.

Here's the full statement:

Live video allows us to see what’s happening in the world as it happens. Just as it gives us a window into the best moments in people’s lives, it can also let us bear witness to the worst. Live video can be a powerful tool in a crisis — to document events or ask for help.

We understand the unique challenges of live video. We know it’s important to have a responsible approach. That’s why we make it easy for people to report live videos to us as they’re happening. We have a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dedicated to responding to these reports immediately.

The rules for live video are the same for all the rest of our content. A reviewer can interrupt a live stream if there is a violation of our Community Standards. Anyone can report content to us if they think it goes against our standards, and it only takes one report for something to be reviewed.

One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those situations, context and degree are everything. 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.

Live video on Facebook is a new and growing format. We’ve learned a lot over the past few months, and will continue to make improvements to this experience wherever we can.

(BuzzFeed is a Facebook Live media partner.)

Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.

Contact Alex Kantrowitz at alex.kantrowitz@buzzfeed.com.

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