Facebook launches review for handling violent videos after Cleveland murder

Facebook has launched a review of how it handles violent videos and other objectionable material. This after a video of a killing in Cleveland on Sunday remained on its website and mobile app for over two hours.

Facebook will “look for ways to make it easier for people to report such videos and speed up the process of reviewing items once they are reported,” Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president for global operations and media partnerships, said in a statement on Monday.

The video appeared to show suspect Steve Stephens fatally shoot 74-year old Robert Godwin. US authorities have widened the manhunt for the murder suspect. Police said they have received dozens of tips about the possible location of the suspect, Steve Stephens.

‘Need to do better’

Facebook has been criticized for not taking the video down faster. The company issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying it hadn’t received a report about the shooting video until “more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted.”

“We disabled the suspect’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind. But we know we need to do better,” the company said.

At present, any Facebook user can post video with no strings attached. Users can then flag content they find objectionable, which Facebook employees review for possible removal. Facebook has a video review team on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the company said.

Facebook relies on its 1.9 billion users to report items that violate its terms of service. Millions of items are reported each week in more than 40 languages and thousands of workers review them, Osofsky said in the statement, posted on a company blog.

“We prioritize reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster,” Osofsky said.

The company has also tried to automate the process for flagging offensive material.


Facebook released a timeline of events related to Stephens, something it had not done after other violent incidents.

Stephens posted three videos, Facebook said. In the first, uploaded at 2:09 p.m. EDT on Sunday (1809 UTC), he said he intended to commit murder. No one reported it, according to Facebook.

Two minutes later at 2:11 p.m. EDT, Stephens uploaded a video of the shooting. And a third video, with a confession to murder, was broadcast live at 2:22 and reported by someone shortly after it ended at 2:27 p.m. EDT.

The shooting video was not reported by Facebook users until 3:59 p.m. EDT and Stephens’ account was disabled at 4:22 p.m. EDT, Facebook’s timeline showed.

“We disabled the suspect’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind. But we know we need to do better,” Osofsky said.

Not the first time

In March a 15-year-old girl was raped by multiple people in Chicago, an attack that was streamed on Facebook Live. In January three men were arrested in relation to a similar incident involving the live-streamed rape of a woman in Sweden.

In 2016, 23-year-old Korryn Gaines used Facebook to broadcast a standoff with police in Baltimore, which ended in the mother of one being shot and killed.

Facebook has also hosted videos showing the torture of a young man with disabilities in Chicago, the musings of a spree killer being chased by police, child abuse and now murder.

A game changer?

“I think it’s entirely possible that this incident could change the game,” Wired Editor-In-Chief Nicholas Thompson told “CBS This Morning” on Monday.

“What I think will happen now is Facebook will have to look at their algorithms to try to figure out whether this can be stopped, and think about the culture. There is a real culture of violence that has perpetrated itself inside of video sharing and social media platforms, and can that be changed?”

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