Facebook is coming under fresh pressure over its Facebook Live service after a Thai man broadcast a video of himself killing his 11-month-old daughter. Wuttisan Wongtalay, 20, filmed the murder of his daughter on the rooftop of a deserted hotel in two video clips streamed on Facebook, before committing suicide, police in the Thai town of Phuket said on Tuesday. Relatives reportedly saw the distressing footage on Monday evening and alerted the police, who arrived too late to save either Wuttisan or his daughter.
The two harrowing clips were then accessible to users on his Facebook page for approximately 24 hours before being taken down at 5pm local time (10am GMT) on Tuesday. The first video had been viewed 112,000 times by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, while the second video had 258,000 views. The videos were also uploaded by other people to Google’s YouTube. YouTube said the videos were taken down within 15 minutes of it being notified.
Wuttisan’s suicide was not broadcast on Facebook but his body was found beside his daughter, said Jullaus Suvannin, the Thai police officer in charge of the case. He said: “[Wuttisan] was having paranoia about his wife leaving him and not loving him.” A Facebook spokesperson said: “This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim. There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed.”
A YouTube spokesperson said: “YouTube has clear policies that outline what’s acceptable to post and we quickly remove videos that break our rules when they’re flagged.”
No charges for Facebook
The videos were removed from Facebook after Thailand’s ministry of digital economy contacted the social network on Tuesday afternoon following a police request. “We will not be able to press charges against Facebook, because Facebook is the service provider and it acted according to its protocol when we sent our request. It cooperated very well,” said Somsak Khaosuwan, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry.
This is not the first time Facebook’s video service has been used to broadcast or display such material. In January the torture of a man, who was bound, gagged and brutally attacked, was broadcast on Facebook live to more than 16,000 people before gaining a much wider audience once posted to YouTube. In March, a 15-year-old girl from Chicago was sexually assaulted by five or six men or boys, which was again broadcast live to Facebook, with at least 40 people watching.
In April, the Cleveland murder of 74-year-old former foundry worker, Robert Godwin, was posted to Facebook by Steve Stephens, prompting a manhunt. The killing was not broadcast live, but was available to view for three hours before being taken down. A Swedish court jailed three men on Tuesday for the rape of a woman that was broadcast live on Facebook earlier this year in the city of Uppsala, 50 miles north of Stockholm. Viewers of the live broadcast alerted police who were able to arrest the men.
Facebook said it was reviewing how it monitored violent and objectionable material following the incident in Cleveland. Last week Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that the company would do all it could to help prevent the posting of objectionable content and that it had a lot more work to do to maintain a safe community for its users.
The killing was the first in Thailand known to have been broadcast on Facebook, said deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen. “It could be influenced by behaviour from abroad, most recently in Cleveland,” he said.
Facebook faces a difficult task in inhibiting the broadcast or uploading of objectionable material. Facebook Live allows anyone with a smartphone to broadcast video directly to the social network, and has a big push from Facebook as it takes on rivals Twitter and YouTube’s livestreaming functions.
While traditional TV broadcasters are subject to regulations, internet streaming services do not face the same restrictions and enforce their own terms of services. Most, including Facebook, rely on automated methods and the reporting of objectionable content, which is later reviewed and acted on if it is deemed to violate the site’s terms of service.
Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users, of which 1.74 billion are actively using mobile device to access the social network, and has found itself at the centre of the current storm over livestreaming. For live broadcast, including Facebook Live, the challenge for the companies playing host to the videos to discern objectionable content in real time, a process that none of the large technology firms seems capable of doing.
That leaves Facebook and other livestreaming services with little choice either to attempt to react quickly through both people-powered and automated means after content is flagged, to attempt to analyse every video once it has been uploaded or to simply discontinue live streams – something Facebook is unlikely to do.
The Samaritans offer support and advice to people feeling suicidal or vulnerable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their website is http://www.samaritans.org, email address firstname.lastname@example.org or call free on 116 123.