Much in the way that criminals of bygone eras would send letters to newspapers trumpeting their crimes, or taunting law enforcement with phone calls, modern criminals are now using Facebook Live to broadcast their misdeeds in real-time. What’s worse, the severity and scope of the crimes seems to be escalating:
Facebook Live allows anyone to broadcast a video directly from their smartphone to the social network. Despite a wide-reaching advertising campaign urging people to use the feature to share heartwarming life moments, it’s gained a reputation for much grittier subject matter: the torture of a young man with disabilities in Chicago; the musings of a spree killer being chased by police; child abuse and now gang rape.
Criminals aren’t known for their intelligence, and in many of these cases, they’re quickly caught and convicted due to the overwhelming evidence. Still, the trend of documenting crimes on Facebook is rising.
The reasons why probably boil down to a confluence of factors. For one, criminals have always liked bragging about their deeds, and Facebook is the ultimate sharing platform, offering the widest audience possible. Younger generations are always on camera now, so the fear of being implicated isn’t nearly as strong — the instinct may be to simply pick up the camera, rather than avoid it:
“There’s a snapshot culture. If we come across something extraordinary it doesn’t count unless we’ve filmed it or taken a picture. It becomes an instinct,” [Raymond Surette, professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida] said.
“So then when you commit a violent crime or a rape the same instinct might strike you. You just grab for the phone and film it without thinking about the consequences.”
High-profile crime also brings a certain amount of celebrity, with global news outlets regularly and widely reporting on these incidents. But for the victims of the crimes, the effects can be doubly devastating:
“You get two-fold victimization,” said Surette. “The actual crime and then the humiliation and sharing.”
What can Facebook do about these incidents? The simple answer is, not much. Users have the ability to report posts of all kinds — including Facebook Live broadcasts — for abuse, but that doesn’t seem to be working well enough.
And until something changes, either technologically or culturally, we’re likely to see a whole slew of these awful stories continue to crop up.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was trading at $130.23 per share on Monday afternoon, down $1.95 (-1.48%). Year-to-date, FB has gained 13.19%, versus a 1.60% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.