Facebook should turn off livestreaming - Privacy Commissioner

1:22 pm on 8 April 2019

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says Facebook should no longer be able to deny responsibility for content shared on its platform.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards Photo: Supplied / Office of the Privacy Commissioner

Despite describing the Christchurch mosque attacks where 50 people were killed as "a really terrible event", Facebook is not keen to introduce delays on its livestream feeds.

The Christchurch gunman broadcast the attacks on the social media network.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company needed to improve its systems so it could identify terror events livestreamed in real time, but delaying broadcasting video would spoil it for the vast majority of users.

It took the social media company 29 minutes to detect the livestreamed video of the massacre. About 1.3 million copies of the video were blocked from Facebook, but 300,000 copies were published and shared.

Mr Edwards told Morning Report US law deems Facebook to be a platform not a publisher - and this needed to change.

"I think what we're seeing around the world is a pushback on that ... we've seen the model change since those initial settings enabled those start-ups to dominate our internet discourse."

Australia's law change to fine social media companies and even imprison executives if violent content was not immediately removed was a good move, Mr Edwards said.

"I don't think that Facebook can anymore say 'listen we just provide the platform we're not responsible for the content'. They have been responsible for appalling content that set the preconditions for the genocide in Myanmar.

"They have enabled their service to be manipulated by Russian trolls to influence the outcome of elections.

"This is a problem all around the world that governments are finally waking up to and saying 'we've got to act and to force these companies to behave in a responsible manner."

He said livestreaming technology was capable of causing great harm, and the company had no systems in place to detect the Christchurch video.

"Maybe a delay on livestreaming would be a good thing as an interim measure until they can sort out their AI, maybe they just need to turn it off altogether."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg Photo: AFP

Mr Edwards said Facebook could not or would not say how many murders, suicides and sexual assaults were livestreamed on its platform.

He said it was a global problem and it would be very difficult for New Zealand to act alone to do something about it.

Mr Edwards said Facebook has admitted to him previously it has not done anything that would prevent a similar livestream occurring and being shared.

Facebook's chief operating officer has said the social media giant must do more to stamp out hate and strengthen the rules for using its livestreaming platform.

Mr Zuckerberg has asked governments and regulators to play a more active role in controlling what is published on the internet.

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