Regulation

The Latest Synagogue Shooting Is Not an Excuse To Regulate Livestreams

Violent bigots were targeting Jews long before they could broadcast the carnage.

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Twitch became the latest streaming platform to be used by a mass shooter on October 9 when Stephan Balliet livestreamed himself killing two people near a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur.

Balliet's attack was on Twitch for a total of 65 minutes, 30 of which were live footage. It garnered about 2,200 views before being taken down. Brielle Villablanca, Twitch's head of corporate communications, told Vice News that, "Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct…[and is] working with urgency to permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act."

Last week's shooting has reignited the debate about the extent to which streaming companies are responsible for content uploaded to their platforms, a conversation the company became familiar with last year after David Katz opened fire on fellow competitors during a livestreamed Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, after losing a match.

Companies that allow users to livestream stand accused of giving shooters a place to act out their manifestos in front of an audience, gaining the attention they seek. The Halle shooting prompted Horst Seehofer, Germany's federal minister of the interior, to announce that "We can not just tolerate hatred on the internethatred has nothing to do with freedom of expression." But platforms have a strong incentive to respond quickly to livestreamed violence, and the imposition of heavy-handed regulations would likely do very little to stop mass shootings.

The outrage over last week's synagogue shooting mirrors what happened earlier this year when Brenton Tarrant used Facebook Live to stream his massacre of 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. After the shooting, New Zealand's privacy commissioner, John Edwards, called Facebook "morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide" who "refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm."

Facebook, as a result of public criticism, ended up enacting a new "one strike" policy that prevents people who have violated one of Facebook's policies from using Facebook Live to stream at all.

Twitch now faces a similar choice: cave to the demands of the outraged or continue to offer unfettered streaming services. Since Twitch's model involves streaming events as they take place in real time, the company would have a hard time vetting content prior to it being streamed. Some people, like Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights group, insist that, "[tech companies] can solve this" but "the companies don't want to cooperate," leaving government-imposed regulation as the only solution.

Facebook's main source of revenue is not its livestreaming feature, so the company can afford to regulate itself. Twitch, on the other hand, is first and foremost a livestreaming platform which offers its users the ability to upload when they feel like it—or the whole model is rendered useless. Twitch already bans livestreaming real-life violence and acted swiftly when abuses of the platform did occur.

The blame for mass shootings begins and ends with the individual pulling the trigger. Blaming tech platforms makes as much sense as blaming violent video games.

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  1. I’m not sure anyone is blaming the tech platform for deaths. Let’s look at this realistically. When your product can be used in this fashion it means you have a shit product and I find it hard to believe they didn’t have the foresight to know that this was going to happen. CDA 230 though. No need to worry.
    Those that are liable like CNN have a delay and cut it in the event someone Budd Dwyer’s themselves. Twitch doesn’t need to concern themselves with such issues so why bother finding a way to fix it?

    These companies should have shut down livestreaming until they found a way to stop themselves from broadcasting the same type of video. However, that’s bad for profits. With regulation that can’t happen again because they would be held liable so in order to keep the dollars rolling in they’ll work as hard as possible to determine that they can allow the public to broadcast without this being the issue.

    “Facebook, as a result of public criticism, ended up enacting a new “one strike” policy that prevents people who have violated one of Facebook’s policies from using Facebook Live to stream at all.”

    Did the NZ shooter get a strike for what he broadcasted? I hope so. Otherwise this problem would never get solved.

    When a person has a death wish rules don’t matter.

    1. The one-strike rule will be vigorously applied to suicide bombers.

      1. Thankfully they tend to cut their own feed thus ending the broadcast.

    2. . . . Those that are liable like CNN have a delay and cut it in the event someone Budd Dwyer’s themselves. . .

      There is a huge difference between broadcasters and livestream services.

      Broadcasters have a limited number of cameras/microphones that are under their control. Each broadcast has various support staff and producers on hand to monitor and “hit the switch”.

      Livestreaming services have an unknown number of possible devices not under their control. There are no support crews monitoring every possible, unscheduled livestream. It is not so simple to implement a delay with a kill switch.

      1. “Livestreaming services have an unknown number of possible devices not under their control. There are no support crews monitoring every possible, unscheduled livestream. It is not so simple to implement a delay with a kill switch.”

        Seems like that could be a problem then, right? You know, one that allows someone to livestream a mass shooting, have sex with roadkill, behead a baby, and/or kill themselves all while an audience of children watches. (One can do all of those right now in a single stream)

        Maybe if you can’t stop people from streaming that you shouldn’t be allowing it until you can prevent it. If someone wants to livestream that then they can buy their own domain, pay for hosting, and build a website that allows people to view it. True, people may not know of it to know to watch it, but that’s what advertising is for. A company to pay all the costs and provide your audience isn’t required.

        1. I’m not convinced a company should face any legal consequences if someone uses their platform to stream something nasty. As long as they take down anything actually illegal when notified.

          Maybe if you can’t stop people from streaming that you shouldn’t be allowing it until you can prevent it.
          Your approach seems rather authoritarian.

          1. Even if it is known that people do this and continue to do it due to the advantages of having an audience and it always being an option?
            That’s kinda hard to fight especially since their income is based on this always being a thing.

          2. “Your approach seems rather authoritarian.”

            No. Just make them liable. You not forcing anyone to do anything that way. They can still allow it if they want, but since it will cost them a fortune they’ll be sure to develop a method to prevent it from being streamed in the future.
            As it now stands why bother spending that kind of money? Your platform is mainly kids 8-18. They’re not going to stop watching.

            1. “Make them liable” is the rallying cry of the soft authoritarians these days. You’re overlooking a central tenet of the common law: if someone causes you an actual harm, you have a civil case for redress, full stop. It doesn’t matter if that harm occurs in a technologically new fashion, if you were actually hurt the law already covers it – so any attempt to “make them liable” necessarily requires inventing a new category of harm to be sued under, i.e. diminishing by force of law the rights of one class of citizens for the benefit of the aggrieved. It’s a stance that is not compatible with a belief in liberty.

        2. Or maybe you could accept that the livestreaming isn’t the problem – the underlying crime is the problem.

          And maybe, if you were really smart, you might be able to figure out how to use that livestream as evidence to get a conviction instead of the old-fashioned practice of writing off the vast majority of such crimes as unsolvable cold cases.

          1. “And maybe, if you were really smart, you might be able to figure out how to use that livestream as evidence to get a conviction”

            Those livestreaming their crimes tend to go into it knowing that death is a likely outcome. There hasn’t been an issue convicting anyone yet. In fact, they’ve been quite forthcoming and make it a point to show their faces. They use real names too.

            We’re lucky that all we have seen is mass-shootings and that’s a fucked up thing to think about. Picture a guy dismembering his wife in HD or a mother drowning her kids.

            I bet a school shooting will be streamed in the future seeing as this livestreaming is big among the youth. Just think of what it would be like if Sandy Hook was available for everyone to watch in POV. Why would we allow that? Just accept it as part of the deal? I dunno…

            I’m not in favor of new laws, but man… When something is fucked up you gotta admit it. Just yank 230. A company has the ability to put an end to this and money for an absolute waste of time thing that is a pure luxury is more important.

        3. So your belief is that old standard “forbidden until you can prove it isn’t threatening/unpatriotic/heretical” eh? You seem lost – this is (ostensibly) a libertarian website.

          1. No, I’m just saying that Amazon and Facebook can stop this from happening and they choose not to. 1 person can monitor at least 6 streams at once (twitch is already a 10-15 second delay at least as is youtube) and pull the broadcast while still recording the evidence. In all of these shooting instances the video would have been yanked before anyone died because serious TOS violations were in the video content alone and not the audio. If the video starts out with shooting that stream will stand the fuck out among the other 5 so you can eliminate the broadcast.
            They just don’t need to do that because if it happens, oh well. They face no consequence. It’s cheaper not to do that than to have it happen. People will still watch if it happens and you don’t have to hire more people.
            Since they didn’t do it I imagine the entire livestreaming industry will be fucked because it looks like tomorrow the gov is going to begin stepping in.
            I’ve been around long enough to know how this works by now.
            You can still buy your own website and host your livestreams. Those running the business model of paying for it and making money off of you fucked it up by ignoring the obvious.

            Because of CDA 230 a better company that wants to monitor the streams won’t be able to compete because their costs are too high. The law is what enabled this because otherwise every lawyer for the company would say they were fucking crazy for allowing the public to livestream.

    3. I don’t see the problem. If an occasional murder gets livestreamed, that’s awful and I don’t like it. But no one has to watch it and it gets taken down fast. I think that the risk of there being the occasional terrible act streamed is well worth it to maintain largely open media platforms that anyone can use.

    4. And their product can be used in this fashion because that’s exactly how it was designed to function. You write as if it is somehow a glitch in livestreaming platforms that they actually livestream stuff.

      1. “And their product can be used in this fashion because that’s exactly how it was designed to function. You write as if it is somehow a glitch in livestreaming platforms that they actually livestream stuff.”

        Then remove liability from media companies like CNN as well. Why can’t they have the freedom from consequence? In order for CNN to become free of liability they could just change their business model and serve as a livestreaming company.

    5. That’s like saying companies that make kitchen knives have a shit product because they can be used to murder someone and they should have the foresight to know that was going to happen.

      1. A kitchen knife company’s product is out of their hands once you buy it. Same with guns. Twitch could hire people to moderate all the streams or put in a delay to prevent this and they don’t. (TBH, there already is a delay. Just no one to cut the stream)

  2. “Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct…[and is] working with urgency to permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

    No you don’t.

    1. I’m sure they banned the streamer’s account.
      Thank god.

  3. “The blame for mass shootings begins and ends with the individual pulling the trigger.”

    All 17 libertarians agree on this. Everyone else blames guns and violent video games/movies.

    1. Don’t forget to blame the NRA, vaccines, and the lizard pope.

      Occasionally you get a person who blames the lack of public mental health services in the US, which is at least a far more reasonable position, if one I still feel is flawed.

  4. We need to regulate people very closely.
    Let’s face facts here.
    People need to be micromanaged because they’re intrinsically children and can’t behave in a civilized manner without government officials micromanaging their lives.
    After all, you didn’t see anyone threatening anyone in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China or Hitler’s Germany now did you?

    1. This isn’t that at all.
      It’s more like saying “If you own a company and you know people are using it in this manner and you don’t stop it then you’re in trouble.” That’s only logical.
      They are in operation of the “product”. They can fix this problem. They just don’t want to spend the money and I can’t blame them because there isn’t a reason for them to other than maybe being nice.

  5. I understand the concern. These killers use media to glorify and promote their actions.

    You can’t unscramble the egg however. No matter what you do they will find a way.

  6. Just to add. It is really up to us to not allow these murders to become legends and inspire others. Let them remain nameless and forgotten. We remember the victims let the murderer just be remembered as that.

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