Ethical dilemma: Facebook Live

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 18: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The conference will explore Facebook's new technology initiatives and products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference in San Jose, California.

“I hear them, bro,” Jamel Chandler told viewers of his Facebook Live video stream, just before climbing out the window of his apartment on a rope made of knotted bedsheets. The police were knocking at the door of his Brooklyn apartment and Chandler was worried they were there to arrest him. Chandler died when the improvised rope failed and he fell from the 11-story building. Should the social media network make it harder to broadcast disturbing scenes — including criminal acts? Here are two views:

Michael Socolow, media historian at the University of Maine: “The broadcasting of horrific violence to mass audiences has a long history, so it’s too simple to blame Facebook Live for inciting criminality. That being said, Facebook’s routine deception and algorithmic manipulation deserve more public scrutiny. It’s not just Facebook Live causing problems for the American people — it’s Facebook itself.”

Jamarhl Crawford, creator and editor of Blackstonian: “Facebook should impose stricter controls over all their content but they need to do so evenhandedly. Protections should be further implemented against hate speech, porn, and mayhem that amounts to snuff films. But controls should not block legitimate political speech, particularly from disenfranchised communities of color. While Facebook should encourage any filming of police that doesn’t violate applicable laws, it needs to be more concerned with the promotion of societal violence.”


In an informal poll on Twitter by @GlobeIdeas, 35 percent of respondents said Facebook should put in tougher controls; 33 percent said leave it alone; while 32 percent called for shutting the service down altogether.

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