In a horribly tragic story, a little over two weeks ago 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis broadcast her death on social media, using popular streaming service Live.Me.
Though disturbing, police apparently had no authority to take down the the footage and the livestream quickly spread around the internet after people kept sharing the heartbreaking video on Facebook, as well as other websites like YouTube.
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While YouTube promptly removed the unnerving clip and its different versions off its platform citing a violation against its “policy on violent or graphic content,” The Washington Post reports the footage continued to show up on various Facebook pages for nearly two weeks before the social media behemoth eventually began wiping out different instances of the video on its website.
The disheartening incident took place on December 30, but by the time Facebook had removed the video off its platform, it had been viewed by thousands of people across the globe.
In the 40-minute livestream, the girl claims that, in addition to struggling with depression, she had been sexually abused by a family member. Then she proceeds to say farewell to her close friends and family, and eventually takes her own life. The last 10 minutes of the livestream show her lifeless body hanging from a tree as the sun sets.
While the footage was quickly taken down from Live.Me where it originally appeared, versions of the video including a “graphic video” warning started circulating Facebook.
In an effort to curb the clip from further scattering across the Web, Polk County Police Department issued a statement on its Facebook page, asking anyone familiar with the matter to “keep this information off the internet.”
Polk County Chief Kenny Dodd further added the department had been inundated with outraged messages and phone calls asking to remove the video.
“We want it down as much as anyone, for the family, and it maybe harmful to other kids. We contacted some of the sites. They asked if they had to take it down, and by law they don’t. But it’s just the common decent thing to do in my opinion.”
While alarming, this is hardly the first time Facebook has struggled with moderating violent videos on its platform.
Earlier in January, four people were detained in Chicago after brutally abusing and terrorizing a young man with “mental health challenges” on Facebook Live. The platform has also been used to livestream a series of violent shootings in different parts of the US.
Given how much Facebook has increased its video efforts over the past year, chances are disturbing footage will continue to pop up on the platform as user-generated content continues to grow in popularity. The social media giant simply can’t afford to take this lightly.
Last October, the website announced it will refrain from immediately taking down certain violent or graphic videos, considering newsworthiness and public interest before applying any censorship – even when the clip violates the platform’s community standards.
This is reasonable, but it also requires tremendous amount of responsibility to enforce in a viable way. This time, Facebook failed its users.
Supervising such a large network of people is by no means an easy task and while it’s Facebook’s duty to keep its platform in check, it is ultimately us that generate most of the footage that appears there – and things will never change for the better unless we start questioning our own actions before seeking to put the blame on someone else.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or experiencing intense feelings of anxiety or depression, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For a similar helpline in your country, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.