Facebook releases timeline of murder filmed live on platform

18 Apr 2017

Image: chainarong06/Shutterstock

Facebook has released a timeline of the activity of a user who live-streamed the murder of another human being.

Questions are being asked once again of Facebook’s responsibility to police its own content after it was revealed that a man in the US live-streamed himself preparing, filming and admitting to a murder on Easter Sunday.

In the video, the man claiming to be a 37-year-old named Steve Stephens said he was intent on committing the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr, and anyone following his live stream would have seen the horrific threat followed through.

Immediately following the incident, Facebook was criticised for not reacting fast enough to shut down the live stream, given that it was very much in violation of its terms of use.

At that time, a tweet sent by the victim’s grandson, Ryan Godwin, gained considerable attention online, calling for people to stop sharing the video and report it.

First reported 1.5 hours after video began

In an effort to explain why it took so long for the video to be removed, Facebook has issued a timeline of events for the murder, claiming that the first flag was raised by a user nearly two hours after it was posted.

Based on Facebook’s own data, Stephens posted the first video admitting his intent to murder Godwin at 11.09am PDT, shortly followed by the second video of the murder, ending at 11.27am PDT.

The second video of the shooting was reported more than 1.5 hours later.

Approximately 20 minutes after that, Facebook said it had disabled the user’s account and removed all of the videos.

Prior incidents on Facebook Live

In response to the murder, Facebook’s VP of global operations, Justin Osofsky, revealed that the company will be reviewing its reporting process as this type of video “has no place on Facebook”.

While he did not go into any details, Osofsky cited artificial intelligence as playing “an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety”.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has been criticised for a slow reaction to video content posted on the social network – earlier this year, a group of teenagers used the platform to live-stream the kidnapping and torture of a man.

Facebook has also initiated a process of trying to control instances of fake news being shared on the platform, despite founder Mark Zuckerberg previously saying it was not the company’s job to police content.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic