Auto-Plays On Facebook, Twitter Expose Social Media Users To Murder Video


There are two videos of yesterday’s murder of two Virginia journalists. The first was broadcast live at the time of the killing. The second was taken by the gunman himself. He posted it to Twitter and to Facebook after the murder. The Atlantic says that both social media companies quickly suspended his accounts and removed the videos. For the 10 or 15 minutes before that, the videos circulated widely on both services as users shared them out of horror, confusion, or some other emotion. In the past 12 months, both Twitter and Facebook have begun auto-playing videos when they appeared in a user's feed. If a video comes across your feed, or you accidentally open it in a tab or tap a link on your phone, the video pops up and just starts playing. You do not have the option to figure out the video's context, and choose whether to press play.

Yesterday, the video that was auto-playing in everyone's feed showed the murder of two people. Facebook's version of the video was shared 500 before it was taken down. User reports suggest that thousands and thousands of people witnessed a brief, vivid, and unmistakable snuff film without being warned ahead of time or knowing what they were getting themselves into. Forcing thousands of people to view two deaths without warning or preparation causes real harm. Twitter and Facebook were not the only venues showing video of the murder. CNN was showing the TV station's version of the video once an hour. That kind of viewing is different because there was a warning before it. Except for someone changing the channel directly into the brief footage, a viewer would know what they were about to see and choose whether to watch it or not.

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