How a suicide video on Facebook Live went viral about TikTok

Jake Levins September 12, 2020 4 No Comments

How a suicide video on Facebook Live went viral on TikTok

“Ronnie had been dead for nearly one hour and a half once I got the very first telling from Facebook they were not likely to shoot down the video […] exactly what the hell type of criteria is that?” Steen advised Snopes

Earlier this week, Facebook issued the following announcement: “We removed the original video from Facebook last month on the day it was streamed and have used automation technology to remove copies and uploads since that time.” 

Wachiwit through Getty Images

Later, on September 10th, the company educated Snopes the video was around the website for 2 hours and 41 seconds before it had been eliminated. “We are reviewing how we could have taken down the livestream faster,” it said in a statement. Those 2 hours 41 minutes, Steen advised Snopes, is not quickly enough of a reply, and is totally unacceptable as family and friends were affected from the video. 

During that time, the video had been reposted on other Facebook categories and, based on Vice, spread into fringe forums such as 4chan. Users of these websites then reshared the video on Facebook, as well as some other areas like Twitter and YouTube. But it’s on TikTok in which the video really went viral. 

One of all the possible causes of this spread is TikTok’s algorithm, which can be often blamed for the program’s achievement. TikTok’s most important characteristic is its own For You webpage, a endless flow of videos tailored specifically for you, according to your interests and involvement. Because of the algorithm, it is frequently possible for whole unknowns to go viral and also make it large TikTok, although they may have trouble doing this on other social networks. 

In that a blog post printed this June, TikTok stated that when a video is uploaded into the service, it’s first revealed to a tiny subset of consumers. Based in their answer — such as watching the entire item or sharing it the video is subsequently shared to more individuals who have similar interests, then feedback loop is replicated, leading a video to go viral. Other components like tune clips, hashtags and captions can also be considered, which can be why consumers add the “#foryou” hashtag so as to get about the For You webpage — if individuals engage with this specific hashtag, they then are advocated more videos with the identical tag. 

Tyumen, Russia - January 21, 2020: TikTok and Facebook application on screen Apple iPhone XR

Anatoliy Sizov through Getty Images

In flip words, using particular popular tune clips, hashtags along with captions, you can possibly “game” that the TikTok algorithm and fool people into viewing the video. Though TikTok has not said that is what occurred in this instance, that is definitely a possibility. It’s also completely possible that since the narrative of the video captured around, folks may have just searched to the video in their to meet a morbid fascination, which then prompts it to have picked up around the For You webpage over and over.  

TikTok, for its part, was working to block the video and down it because it began booting up Sunday. In a statement it said:

Our systems, with our moderation groups, have been discovering and eliminating those clips for violating our policies against content which displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide. We are banning accounts which try to upload movies, and we love our community members who have reported content and cautioned others against viewing, engaging, or even sharing these videos on any stage from admiration for your individual and their loved ones. If anyone in our area is struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about someone who is, we invite them to seek out assistance, and we offer access to hotlines straight from our program and in our Safety Center.

But the company is currently having a challenging time. Users maintained figuring out workarounds, such as sharing the video from the comments, or disguising it in a different video that originally sounds benign. 

At exactly the exact same time, nevertheless, TikTok has witnessed a surge of videos which aim to turn individuals off in the video. Some consumers in addition to prominent founders have taken into posting videos, where they’d say something such as “if you see this image, don’t watch, keep scrolling.” Those videos have gone viral too, which the company appears to encourage. 

As for why folks flow these videos at the first place, sadly that is somewhat perplexing. “Everything that happens in real life is going to happen on video platforms,” stated Bart Andrews, that the Chief Clinical Officer of Behavioral Health Response, a company that offers telephone counselling to individuals in mental health emergencies. “Sometimes, the act is not just the ending of life. It’s a communication, a final message to the world. And social media is a way to get your message to millions of people.”

“People have become so accustomed to living their lives online and through social media,” stated Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of suicide non-profit firm SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). “It’s a natural extension for someone that might be struggling to think that’s where they would put that out there.” Sometimes, he explained, putting these ideas on social websites is really a great thing, as it assists warn family and friends that something isn’t right. “They put out a message of distress, and they get lots of support or resources to help them out.” Unfortunately, nevertheless, that is not necessarily true, and also the action goes through no matter. 

It is therefore up to the societal networking platforms to produce options on how to best prevent such functions, and to prevent them from being shared. Facebook is sadly well familiar with the issue, as many incidents of suicide in addition to murder have happened on its own live streaming stage within the last couple of decades. 

Angry reactions are seen on local media Facebook live as Palang Pracharat Party leader Uttama Savanayana attends a news conference during the general election in Bangkok, Thailand, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Soe Zeya Tun / reuters

Facebook has, however, taken steps to overcome this matter, and Reidenberg really believes that it is the leader in the tech world on this topic. (He was one of the men and women who directed the development of suicide prevention best practices for the tech market.) Facebook has supplied FAQs on suicide prevention, hired a wellness and well-being expert for its security policy group, given a list of sources if someone searches for suicide or self-harm, and rolled an AI-based suicide prevention tool which can allegedly detect remarks which are most likely to include ideas of suicide. 

Facebook has integrated suicide prevention programs to Facebook Live, where consumers may reach out to the individual and report the incident to this company in precisely the exact same moment. However, Facebook has stated it would not cut the livestream, since it might “remove the opportunity for that person to receive help.” Though that is contentious, Andrews supports this idea. “I understand that if this person is still alive, maybe there’s hope, maybe there’s something that can happen in the moment that will prevent them from doing it.” 

But regrettably, as is true with McNutt, there’s also the probability of vulnerability and mistake. And the outcome could be traumatic. “There are some instances where technology hasn’t advanced fast enough to be able to necessarily stop every single bad thing from being shown,” Reidenberg said.

“Seeing these kinds of videos is very dangerous,” stated Joel Dvoskin, a clinical psychologist in the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “One of those risk factors for suicide is when someone in your household [died from] suicide. People you view social websites are similar to members of your loved ones. If someone is vulnerable or depressed or had given any thought to it, [seeing the video] makes it increasingly conspicuous as a chance.”

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS)

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

As for this AI, equally Reidenberg and Andrews state that it just has not done a fantastic job in rooting out damaging content. Take, for instance, the failure to spot the video of this Christchurch mosque shooting since it had been filmed in first-person or just the more recent struggle in spotting and eliminating COVID-19 misinformation. Plus, regardless of how great the AI gets, Andrews considers that bad actors will probably always be one step ahead. 

“Could we have a completely automated and artificial intelligence program identify issues and lock them down? I think we’ll get better at that, but I think there’ll always be ways to circumvent that and fool the algorithm,” Andrews said. “I just don’t think it’s possible, although it’s something to strive for.”

Instead of relying entirely on AI, equally Reidenberg and Andrews state that a mixture of automatic human and blocking moderation is essential.  “We have to rely on whatever AI is available to identify that there might be some risk,” Reidenberg said. “And actual people like content moderators and safety professionals at these companies need to try to intervene before something bad happens.” 

As for newer social networking companies, they also must believe proactively about suicide. “They have to ask how they want to be known as a platform in terms of social good,” Reidenberg said. In TikTok’s instance, he expects it will join forces with a company like Facebook that has much more expertise in this region. Even when the video was clicked on Facebook, it did not go viral Facebook since the company was able to lock it down (The company could have done a far better job in becoming more proactive at down it considerably sooner than it did). 

TikTok closeup logo displayed on a phone screen, smartphone and keyboard are seen in this multiple exposure illustration. Tik Tok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by a Beijing based internet technology company, ByteDance. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. ByteDance launched TikTok app for iOS and Android in 2017 and earlier in September 2016 Douyin fror the market in China. TikTok became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018. President of the USA Donald Trump is threatening and planning to ban the popular video sharing app TikTok from the US because of the security risk. Thessaloniki, Greece - August 1, 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto through Getty Images

“Any new platform should start from the lessons from older platforms. What works, what doesn’t, and what kind of environment do we want to create for your users,” Andrews said. “You have an obligation to make sure that you are creating an environment and norms and have reporting mechanisms and algorithms to make sure that the environment is as true to what you wanted to be as you can make it. You have to encourage and empower users when they see things that are out of the norm, that they have a mechanism to report that and you have to find a way to respond very quickly to that.”

The answer may also lie in making a community that manages itself. Andrews, for instance, is particularly heartened by the action of this TikTok community climbing up to frighten fellow users concerning the video. “It’s this wonderful version of the internet’s own antibodies,” he explained. “This is an example where we saw the worst of the internet, but we also saw the best of the internet. These are people who have no vested interest in doing this, warning others, but they went out of their way to protect other users from this traumatic imagery.”

That’s why, regardless of the disaster and pain, Andrews considers that society will adapt. “For thousands of years, humans have developed behavior over time to figure out what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable,” he explained. “But we forget that technology, live streaming, this is all still so new. The technology sometimes has gotten ahead of our institutions and social norms. We’re still creating them, and I think it’s wonderful that we’re doing that.”

In that the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Number is 1-800-273-8255. Crisis Text Line could be achieved by texting HOME into 741741 (US), 686868 (Canada), or 85258 (UK)

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