The role of Facebook in the death of 50 innocent people…

On the 15th of March at approximately 1pm in the town of Christchurch, New Zealand, a white supremacist opened fire in two mosques, leaving 50 worshippers dead. One of the attackers live-streamed the entire attack on Facebook in a live 17-minute video. This video showed him selecting his guns of choice and shooting multiple people praying. The 17-minute video was left on Facebook for 1 hour after being published…a lifetime in social media. In that time 1.5 million copies of the massacre video had been re-uploaded. It then took Facebook 24 hours to remove all traces of the video on its site. New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern calls for Facebook to understand their responsibility of the distribution of violent and inappropriate content on their platform.

It raises serious concerns. Why was it not taken down sooner? Did no one report it? Why are there not automated processes to not allow this kind of content to be posted in the first place? Facebook targets consumers trying to advertise in microseconds, why can’t the exact same technology be used to regulate the use of Facebook live? Citizens are quick to discuss the responsibility of the government, the police and our community for acts of terror, but the tech sector must do its part to combat this behaviour.

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Facebook has commented on the issue, stating that it relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems to regulate content posted. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President for Integrity, said that AI has made progress over the years, however the AI systems are based on ‘training data’, which requires thousands of examples of content in order to train the system to remove a certain type of text, imagery or video. The massacre video posted did not trigger any warnings in the system, therefore leading to it being left up for too long.

There is definitely a lesson to be learned from using AI systems in companies. This extends to using AI in marketing situations as well. Everything we love about civilisation is formed from intelligence, so improving this intelligence in the form of AI will help our society to flourish like never before. However, marketers and social media companies need to be take care on how their practices and procedures using AI effect the current society. While some people are incredibly advanced in their AI techniques in marketing, such as automatic target segmentation, sales forecasting, chatbots, speech recognition and data filtering and analysis, the majority of the current society still uses more basic forms of technology. This needs to be recognised by companies. And the prolonged reaction by Facebook to the massacre in Christchurch is the perfect example of this.

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  1. Amen to all of the above! Although I can kind of understand that the whole ‘it hasn’t been done before’ approach to explaining FB’s stance on what happened in Christchurch, it still doesn’t excuse the unchecked horror that was spread through it’s channels. If we as consumers can immediately recognise these kinds of abuses then why not Facebook itself?

    Liked by 1 person

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