On December 30, a 12-year-old girl in Polk County, Georgia, tragically live-streamed her own suicide, and for nearly two weeks, the video could still be found circulating on Facebook.
Police in Polk County received requests from around the world to remove the video, though when they contacted Facebook, the site only asked the cops if it was legally required to remove the video. When the police told Facebook that it was not required to do so, the site allowed the video to remain posted, though with a graphic content warning. Facebook also allegedly told users who reported the video that it did not “violate specific community standards.” However, on the afternoon of January 12, the site finally began hunting down and removing the video.
Facebook often says that videos like this one help to raise awareness and start a conversation about difficult issues. However, many experts are skeptical of the supposed benefit provided by hosting such graphic content.
“What happens if a bunch of people decide to troll the video by hitting the Like or Heart button?” Jeremy J. Littau, an assistant professor of journalism at Lehigh University, told Quartz. “Whatever public service is done by leaving the video up, surely that can be easily undone (and perhaps move into the realm of harm to others struggling with the issue) by watching a bunch of people approve of a person’s suicide by social clicking.”
While it’s good that Facebook is finally stopping the spread of this tragic video, it shouldn’t take a massive public outcry to get the site to take action.
Always keep in mind that the Facebook Help Center offers links to suicide prevention resources.