Facebook found itself at the center of yet another controversy involving race, police shootings and live video this week when 23-year-old black woman Korryn Gaines was shot and killed by Baltimore County police. During the standoff preceding the woman’s death, police asked Facebook to deactivate the woman’s profile and the social media giant complied.
The tragic situation began when three police officers arrived at Gaines’ apartment to serve arrest warrants to her and her boyfriend. The man left the apartment with a 1-year-old child when the standoff began and begged Gaines to come out, but she refused. Police allege that she pointed a shotgun at the officers and said “if you don’t leave, I’ll kill you,” prompting the officers to shoot and kill her. What’s worse, a 5-year-old child in the apartment with Gaines was also struck, though the child’s injuries are non-life threatening.
During the standoff, Gaines was posting videos on Facebook and Instagram and interacting with people who, police say, were encouraging her to resist. Facebook and Instagram both temporarily removed her account, prompting outrage from many activists concerned the sites were working in conjunction with law enforcement to censor the incident. However, police say that the involvement of social media was hindering their efforts to end the situation peacefully.
“Gaines was posting video of the operation as it unfolded. Followers were encouraging her not to comply with negotiators’ requests that she surrender peacefully,” Police Chief Jim Johnson said. “Clearly, you can see this was an exigent circumstance where life and serious injury were in jeopardy.”
Facebook hasn’t officially commented on the incident, but it’s just one of many recent events that illustrate the many problems the site could face with its live video streaming.