Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

Facebook cracks down on live video in the aftermath of Christchurch attacks

The company has introduced a "one-strike" policy to Facebook Live, designed to restrict access to those who violate its rules

Facebook is restricting its live streaming function. AP
Facebook is restricting its live streaming function. AP

As world leaders convene in Paris to address how to curb online violence and extremism, Facebook has announced plans to tighten its rules around its live stream function.

The social media behemoth's "one-strike" policy will now apply to Facebook Live, which would temporarily restrict access to those who violate its content rules. The move is a direct response to calls for action in the wake of the New Zealand terror attacks two months ago.

A terrorist killed 51 people as they prayed at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch on March 15. The massacre was live streamed by the shooter on Facebook, and spread widely on a number of social platforms.

Original footage of the live stream was viewed about 4,000 times and 1.5 million copies of the video were taken down within the first 24 hours before being removed from the social media network.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has since been vocal in calling for social media giants to put framework in place to ensure a similar incident didn't happen again.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a press conference at the OECD headquarters, ahead of the social media summit in Paris on Tuesday. AP Photo.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives a press conference at the OECD headquarters, ahead of the social media summit in Paris on Tuesday. AP Photo.

On Wednesday, as Facebook announced the changes, Ardern was in Paris meeting technology giant executives and world leaders as part of her Christchurch Call summit.

She's co-hosting the summit in Paris this week with French President Emmanuel Macron, where those attending are expected to sign a joint pledge, called the Christchurch Call to Action, to eliminate violent extremist content online.

Facebook's vice president of integrity Guy Rosen signalled the Facebook Live changes in an announcement, citing the Christchurch massacre.

"Following the horrific terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we’ve been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate," he said.

"As a direct result, starting today, people who have broken certain rules on Facebook — including our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy — will be restricted from using Facebook Live."

First-time offenders would be suspended from using Live for a period of time, and the restrictions to services would be expanded on in coming weeks.

"From now on, anyone who violates our most serious policies will be restricted from using Live for set periods of time – for example 30 days – starting on their first offense. For instance, someone who shares a link to a statement from a terrorist group with no context will now be immediately blocked from using Live for a set period of time," Rosen said.

Ardern had earlier told New Zealand media that she would not rule out blocking websites such as Facebook if they failed to remove extremist content.

Speaking after Facebook's announcement, Ardern described the move as a positive step "that shows the Christchurch Call is being acted on".

At the same time, Facebook also announced it would invest $7.5 million (Dh27.5 million) in new research partnerships with academics to improve image and video analysis technology, as users sharing the massacre video had often modified it to avoid detection.

"The overwhelming majority of people use Facebook Live for positive purposes, like sharing a moment with friends or raising awareness for a cause they care about. Still, Live can be abused and we want to take steps to limit that abuse."

Macron met Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in Paris last Friday, to discuss safety online and how France can take a leading role in tech regulation. Zuckerberg is not attending the Christchurch Call summit.

Updated: May 15, 2019 02:59 PM

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