Live feeds on social platforms are changing our world
For years, Facebook and YouTube have had a policy of taking down videos that are disturbing or violent. But then things are different nowadays. Before platforms realise something needs to be taken down, millions would have already streamed in a live video and seen it.
Diamond Reynolds’ 10-minute Facebook Live showed the world her boyfriend Philando Castile covered in blood in the driver’s seat of a car as an officer pointed a gun into the vehicle. By the time it had made it to Facebook Newswire page, Castile was dead and a few millions had seen the disturbing video. This is something the world should see, but what if the Islamic State used Facebook Live or YouTube to broadcast a terror attack or something even more brutal, which they are perfectly capable of?
As if pre-empting this debate, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post: “While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond’s, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important—and how far we still have to go.” Soon, the worst bits of the violent stand-off in Dallas were up for the world to watch on Facebook Live again.
Of course, video in general and video-streaming in particular has a whole lot of potential and is already disrupting at least a handful of industries, but it is also a medium where the unchecked will become the norm. That could put it in a tricky situation with many countries and governments, given that even democracies are not really in favour of an unfettered information flow.
Then there is the impact on the criminal justice system. Will this be considered evidence? Can a judge rule in favour of an accused when the whole world has already seen what has happened, and that too as it happened. Also, it could end up acting as a deterrent for many crimes. See if a public servant will ask you for a bribe if the entire interaction is being beamed live!
There are many other issues that could crop up. Last week, Twitter tried its first live stream—that of a Wimbledon match. This goes on to show how this technology can challenge established models, especially those of television channels. We already have multiple streams to choose from when it comes to some big events like political rallies and concerts, but what happens if someone walks into an IPL match with the intention of streaming the whole game? After all, the only thing you need is a smartphone with a data connection. Will sports administrators start jamming signals at high-value events?
And frankly, we are just looking up the hill that is called video-streaming. According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report for 2016, about 20 million live stories are viewed on Snapchat every day.
Facebook is far bigger. Candace Payne showed the world the power of this new medium when her Chewbacca Mask Facebook Live garnered over 150 million views in a few hours.
Zuckerberg is on record saying he wanted Facebook to develop into a video platform over the years. Facebook Live seems to be that one big idea that will let this happen. I was tempted to think of how the Chinese use OTT messaging services like WeChat—recording small bits of audio or video and pushing it to their groups instead of bothering to write. I will not be surprised if written posts are gradually pushed to the side by live Facebook feeds of different durations. Given that Facebook gives more priority to these Live feeds, a lot of people will be tempted to improve their reach this way.
However, the big question in the end will be, how will we react if we end up watching a murder on the phone, LIVE?