This week, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced an addition of 3,000 jobs over the next year to its internal department dealing with content surveillance. The increase of positions is to be tacked onto a division already consisting of 4,500 people tasked with the duty of reviewing posts alleged to have breached the company’s terms of service.
While Facebook has always had ways of reporting content that violate their terms, the move to hire more people is somewhat in sync with the company’s introduction of Facebook Live. Using this tool in the application, Facebook users are able to conduct live broadcasts of whatever they see fitting, allowing viewers to tune in and watch. During its launch, a little over a year ago, Zuckerberg equated the app to “having a TV camera in your pocket,” suggesting “anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world.” Thirteen months later, the feature has unearthed some shocking footage.
As the tool has grown in popularity, more and more people have been using it for bad as opposed to good, broadcasting deplorable footage that would never make it to air otherwise. This month’s Facebook Live catalogue alone is tagged with several videos showcasing murder in cold blood. Last month, a man in Cleveland filmed himself gunning down and killing a 74-year-old man at random, while a 14-year-old boy in Chicago live-streamed himself sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. In fact, according to a Reuters article, a father in Thailand just this week used Facebook Live to broadcast himself murdering his 11-month old daughter.
The announcement was published as a post on Zuckerberg’s public Facebook profile. In the statement, Zuckerberg promised Facebook users the company’s commitment to minimizing the harmful content that’s been slipping through the cracks as the website’s technology has skyrocketed. “These reviewers will also help us get better at removing things we don’t allow on Facebook like hate speech and child exploitation. And we’ll keep working with local community groups and law enforcement who are in the best position to help someone if they need it – either because they’re about to harm themselves, or because they’re in danger from someone else,” wrote Zuckerberg.
Without a doubt, the feature has been abused and used maliciously with the intention to promote fear. However, it would be unbalanced to ignore successes the application has had when it comes to protecting yourself and broadcasting the truth. There have been several occurrences over the past year where Facebook’s video posting abilities have come to the aid of it’s users, most notably Lavish Reynolds and her documentation of Philando Castile’s murder. For those unfamiliar, Castile was inexplicably shot several times at point-blank by a Minnesota police officer, later succumbing to his injuries. The incident happened after Castile, Reynolds and their daughter were pulled over because of a broken tail-light; the whole incident following the gunfire was documented and published to Facebook by Reynolds before going viral.
The effort now is sorting out the bad from the good, and this is a step in the right direction. Social media can be used as a tool when protecting people being treated unjustly or experiencing marginalization. It can take someone right to the source of the problem, creating a paper trail for those in need. The issue is, with almost two billion monthly users, odds are not everyone is using it for good; in effect, all hands need to be on deck. As Facebook rolls out these new positions, we’ll see what impact will be made, but as history has shown there is always room for improvement.
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