Man murdered in Facebook video reignites moral dilemma
A manhunt is currently underway in Cleveland, USA, after a man was shot dead in a video posted on Facebook yesterday.
The suspect, Steve Stephens (shown above), recorded video of himself randomly picking out 74-year-old Robert Godwin, Sr., as he was walking down a street, and then shooting him in the head, killing him instantly.
The video was uploaded to Facebook shortly afterwards by Stephens, along with a Facebook Live stream. Facebook removed both videos and suspended the account a few hours later.
This is undoubtedly a horrific crime but it’s also left Facebook in the spotlight about whether the videos should have been broadcast on their platform.
* note: the video of the murder was also posted to Twitter by other users. Twitter has since removed the posts.
Whilst the video was removed from Facebook and Twitter, we’re sure it will be available elsewhere on the internet. We haven’t specifically looked for it as, quite frankly, we have no desire to watch an innocent person being murdered, and we hope Stephens gets what he deserves before he hurts anyone else. However, is it right that material such as this is available on the internet, or should there be technology in place to remove it?
The internet has a long history of providing access to gross and objectionable material. Long before the days of websites such as rotten.com and The Stile Project, people were sharing videos and content over bulletin boards.
Currently, there’s no automatic way to stop someone uploading a video of anything. Sure, there may AI solutions to scan the video content before certain platforms accept it but, if it exists, it’s not in use by the most popular sites. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Twitch all want us to share what’s happening right now, live. Users of these sites are proving the idea is popular. Putting a review mechanism for content in place goes against that grain.
Similarly, there is a widely held belief that all information on the internet should be free and obtainable. For this to be the case, it has to include material that we may not support or agree with. If we start to police content, who decides which content is censored? Do we trust our Governments to do this for us? The UK media has long since criticised China for blocking access to internet content, yet the UK Government does exactly the same to its own people.
If we want free access to content, maybe we just have to accept that some of that content will be objectionable and even horrific. We may think that the people behind sites which host such material are twisted or evil but, Steve Stephens proves there are, unfortunately, twisted and evil people everywhere.
There was a second dilemma writing this article… is it “dilemma” or “dilemna”? We always thought it was the latter, since that’s what we were taught back in school all those years ago. Turns out we were wrong – it’s dilemma.