The Friday massacre at two New Zealand mosques, live-streamed to the world, was not the first internet broadcast of a violent crime, but it showed that stopping gory footage from spreading online persists as a major challenge for tech companies despite years of investment.
The massacre in Christchurch was live-streamed by an attacker through his Facebook profile for 17 minutes, according to a copy seen by Reuters. Facebook said it removed the stream after being alerted to it by New Zealand police.
But a few hours later, footage from the stream remained on Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp. It also remained available on file-sharing websites such as New Zealand-based Mega.nz. People who wanted to spread the material had raced to action, rapidly repackaging and distributing the video across many apps and websites within minutes.
Other violent crimes that have been live-streamed include a father in Thailand in 2017 who broadcast himself killing his daughter on Facebook. After more than a day, and 370,000 views, Facebook removed the video.
But the viral reach of yet another obscene video caused politicians around the globe on Friday to voice the same conclusion: Tech companies are failing. As the massacre video continued to spread, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in televised remarks said companies had been slow to remove hate speech.