Live video of a police shooting on Facebook Live Video raises policy and ethical questions

live streaming of the shooting of Philando Castile
live streaming of the shooting of Philando Castile

Many websites these days allow you to upload live videos and recently Facebook also started Facebook Live Video so that people can broadcast their videos in real time.

I came across the news of the shooting of Philando Castile but was perhaps preoccupied with various things I’m trying to handle these days so had no idea exactly what was happening. After reading this report in Buzzfeed I came to know that Philando Castile was shot point blank by a police officer at a traffic shop and the aftermath of the shooting and the subsequent death of Philando Castile was broadcast live on Facebook Live Video by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds. The girlfriend live streamed the shooting’s aftermath, showing the body of his boyfriend covered in blood while the police officer pointed his gun at him.

According to the statement by Diamond Reynolds, the police officer opened fire when Philando Castile was taking out his driver’s license. He had told the police officer that he had a licensed firearm with him. The officer shot him in the arm and Philando seems to have died due to excessive bleeding.

The live streaming of such events on Facebook Live Video and other live streaming websites raises pertinent questions. Although it is great that such events are brought to light in real time and racial crimes as these are exposed and can be used as evidence, these are violent and disturbing videos. A few months ago a girl in France live streamed her suicide.

The most prominent feature of a live video is that it is live, this means it cannot be controlled. You cannot monitor a live video and by the time you get down to monitoring it, it might be too late. What if people start live streaming murders and other such heinous crimes? What if the intention of the live streaming video is right but it is a highly disturbing video?

As more and more live video streaming services get operational on the Internet, things may get out of control. But if there are already so many live video streaming services on the Internet, why so much fuss about the Facebook Live Video service? It’s the reach of Facebook.

You can live stream on YouTube (very few people know that). There is another service called YouNow that allows you to run your own live video streaming channel and it is quite popular among its users. Similarly, there are many more live video streaming channels. But none of them enjoy the sort of presence that Facebook enjoys.

The video, since then, has been labelled as “graphic content” but aside from its darker ramifications, it is also quite empowering that a commoner on the road can capture a crime live and broadcast it on the Internet and then it catches the attention of the entire nation. If it hadn’t been for Facebook Live Video, the cold-blooded murder of Philando by a police officer would have been just another death, unreported, unrecognized and most probably, even unpunished.

About Amrit Hallan

Amrit Hallan is the founder of TechBakBak.com. He writes about technology not because “he loves to write about technology”, he actually believes that it makes the world a better place. On Twitter you can follow him at @amrithallan

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