In Wake Of “Facebook Killer,” Social Network Says It Will Review Its Policies

Mark Zuckerberg [NBC News screenshot]
Following the shocking murder of an elderly man in Cleveland that was posted to Facebook, the company announced that it has launched a review of how it handles violent videos.

Steve Stephens posted a video of the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin in Cleveland on Sunday, and the video remained up on Facebook’s website and mobile app for nearly two hours.

Following the execution, Stephens posted explanations for his deranged behavior. “I f—ed up,” he said. “I’m at the point where I snapped … I got a lot of built up anger and frustration. All my life I’ve been a monster.

As the post was shared, many people posted comments including “please take down this video” and “please have respect for this innocent man killed in cold blood.”

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The world’s largest social network will be looking for ways to make it easier for people to report such videos and to 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.

“As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible. In this case, we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted. We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended. 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.”

Just an hour after Stephens killed himself following a short police chase, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spoke publicly and commented about the event. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin, Sr., and we have a lot of work — and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” he said.

In addition to the issue of the responsibility of social networks in sharing this content, is the psychological effect it has on viewers. Psychologist Dr. Kevin Arnold commented to NBC 4 that there is a risk of “vicarious traumatization.” “You’ll identify with the victim as they go through it, and you’ll experience many, if not all, of the same emotional reactions as if it had been you,” Arnold says.

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He also mentions that extreme videos of that nature can be triggering to people who have experienced violent trauma themselves. According to Arnold, one way people can mitigate the trauma they experience is by sharing the load with others, who then are able to discuss it with them. He says:

“It’s one of those things that’s so outrageous that to just hold it and contain it is hard to do. You want to, in some way, have somebody that connects to that experience with you because being affected by it and not having anybody connect to you with regard to your reaction to seeing it is going to make it even harder for you to cope with what you’ve seen.”

This is a major reason that people continue to post and share the video, even though they know it’s disturbing.

Read more:

Newsweek

Variety.com

NBC4i.com

NBCNews.com

Main photo: Mark Zuckerberg [NBC News screenshot]