March 20, 2019
It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but Facebook is not removing the video of Brenton Tarrant’s mosque tour because people hate it and don’t want to watch it, they’re removing it because people love it and actually want to watch it.
If people hated it and didn’t want to watch it they wouldn’t have to do anything to prevent people from watching it because people would avoid it on their own, just as you don’t click on YouTube videos that you don’t want to watch.
The problem is that people really want to watch the video.
Facebook says none of the 200 or so people who watched live video of the New Zealand mosque shooting flagged it to moderators, underlining the challenge tech companies face in policing violent or disturbing content in real time.
The social media giant released new details about its response to the video in a blog post. It said the gunman’s live 17-minute broadcast was viewed fewer than 200 times and the first user report didn’t come in until 12 minutes after it ended. Fifty people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch.
Facebook removed the video “within minutes’” of being notified by police, said Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel.
“No users reported the video during the live broadcast,” and it was watched about 4,000 times in total before being taken down, Sonderby said. “We continue to work around the clock to prevent this content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people.”
Facebook has previously said that in the first 24 hours after the massacre, it removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks, “of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload,” implying 300,000 copies successfully made it on to the site before being taken down.
Those numbers say a lot.
- About 200 viewers when it was live
- About 4,000 views when they took the original down
- 1.5 MILLION re-uploads in the first 24 hours after the original went live
It is clearly a very popular video. Keep in mind those are just Facebook’s numbers. The video has been uploaded pretty much everywhere and it has been censored pretty much everywhere. It was even censored on Bitchute, the anti-censorship video hosting site, allegedly at the request of the FBI (request, not order – there is an important distinction).
If you still haven’t watched it, you can get a copy of the original video and Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto here.
Removing the video is not the only thing they’re doing to prevent people from knowing.
From Facebook’s update about the shooting:
We designated both shootings as terror attacks, meaning that any praise, support and representation of the events violates our Community Standards and is not permitted on Facebook.
Just a representation of the events
But Facebook also offered some advice for people wanting to share the footage there.
Some variants such as screen recordings were more difficult to detect, so we expanded to additional detection systems including the use of audio technology.
It’s likely that they mean that if someone filmed the screen from an angle and replaced the original audio with anything else, it would be harder for Facebook to detect it. They’d still be able to detect it if enough people report it because moderators would watch it and immediately recognize it. But it’s good to know.