Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook, Life’s New Gatekeeper

I don’t want to be a writer — now or ever — who tries desperately to find a tech angle for major news stories. In the case of the murders this week of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five police officers in Dallas, it is especially pertinent to place empathy, listening, and compassion ahead of anything else. Ali Tomineek’s poem is a good place to start.

I do want to touch upon Facebook Live, though, which factored into Castile’s death and the handing-over of a weapon from a misidentified person of interest in Dallas.

Sonya Mann:

Facebook pulled down Diamond Reynolds’ video of her boyfriend dying and then claimed it was due to a “technical glitch” — frankly, this strikes me as an outright lie. I would bet money that Facebook users reported the video and some underpaid moderator in another country, given no context, axed it because they thought it was just another snuff film.

It has since been reported by a tabloid, the Register, that law enforcement officials were behind the removal of the video.

Mann continues:

I’ve argued before that human societies can’t escape from centralized power. Facebook is a centralized power with a huge and increasing influence over the information that is available to people, both in crisis and on a daily basis.

Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, Vice:

As Facebook continues to build out its Live video platform, the world’s most popular social network has become the de-facto choice for important, breaking, and controversial videos. Several times, Facebook has blocked political or newsworthy content only to later say that the removal was a “technical glitch” or an “error.”

Charlie Warzel, Buzzfeed:

The video is another solemn chapter in our endless conversation about racial injustice and excessive police force. But for Facebook, it may well be a defining moment in how the world’s biggest social network handles the darker side of real-time, brought about by the company’s failure to answer substantive policy questions about its handling of a gruesome but important video posted to a platform that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly touted as Facebook’s top priority.

Facebook Live is rapidly becoming entwined with some of the biggest news stories of the year, but past accusations of editorializing and bias have tainted its reputation as an effective medium for sharing these events. If Facebook is to become a news carrier, they ought to compartmentalize the sections of their platform that are directly relevant to the news, and give that product the unique ethical and moral gravity it deserves. Facebook Live is clearly no longer just a feature.