New Zealand mosque shootings: FB, Twitter face scrutiny after livestreaming of attack

Hours after the attack, copies of the footage were still available on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp.

March 15, 2019 10:44 pm | Updated March 16, 2019 08:20 am IST - Singapore

In this frame from video that was livestreamed Friday, March 15, 2019, a gunman who used the name Brenton Tarrant on social media reaches for a gun in the back of his car before the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In this frame from video that was livestreamed Friday, March 15, 2019, a gunman who used the name Brenton Tarrant on social media reaches for a gun in the back of his car before the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Social media giants Facebook, Twitter, Google faced scrutiny over extremist content on their platforms on Friday after video footage of mass shootings in New Zealand was live streamed and widely shared online.

Footage of the attacks was broadcast live to Facebook and then re-shared by users on other platforms.

Following the shootings, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all said they were taking action to remove the videos. “Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video,” Facebook tweeted.

“We're also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as were aware.”

Twitter said it had “rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations” such as this. “We also cooperate with law enforcement to facilitate their investigations as required,” it said.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said: “Please know we are working vigilantly to remove any violent footage.”

Hours after the attack, copies of the footage were still available on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp.

The videos showed the gunman driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.

Britain's interior minister said the companies needed to take more action.

“You really need to do more @YouTube @Google @facebook @Twitter to stop violent extremism being promoted on your platforms,” minister Sajid Javid wrote on Twitter. “Take some ownership. Enough is enough.”

Live streaming services have become a central component of social media companies' growth strategy in recent years, but they are also increasingly exploited by some users to livestream offensive and violent content.

In 2017, a father in Thailand broadcast himself killing his daughter on Facebook Live. After more than a day, and 370,000 views, Facebook removed the video. That year, a video of a man shooting and killing another in Cleveland also shocked viewers.

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