Content is king,” we like to repeat frequently amongst ourselves at trade shows and in- dustry forums, even when those events are
focused on the technical challenges of streaming video. In reality, we have multiple kings, as
content varies widely between video platform
types: business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), and social media platforms.
On social media, production quality is less important than content—those compelling, can’t-look-away content snippets that we Share or
Like dozens of times per day. When it was just
cats and dancing babies, there was a clear line
of demarcation between serious and silly, and
social media was the campground in which silly
often pitched its tent alongside inane, ludicrous,
However, a growing trend in social media live
video streams—which started with the launch
of Periscope and Vine, and has continued today
into the mainstream with the Facebook Live
platform—has parents and authorities worried:
Livestreaming platforms are being used to nar-rowcast self-harm or criminal activity against
A recent Wall Street Journal article (go2sm
.com/facebookwsj) highlighted Facebook’s recent dilemma dealing with the dark side of live
social media streaming, as numbers of live-stream incidents—assaults, shootings, robberies, and additional suicides, sometimes as many
as two per day—has been steadily rising on
Facebook Live throughout 2016 and early 2017.
The problem actually started several years
ago, not too long after Periscope hit the market
with its 24-hour-archive option.
“What will happen is likely to be very shocking,” a teenage girl in the Egly suburb of Paris
stated in an archived version of her mid-2016
Periscope live feed, retained after her suicide
broadcast at the Egly train station.
Law enforcement tried to reach the girl’s location—she had been broadcasting for a number of minutes prior to the event, even posting
multiple videos, including one in which she
warned her audience, “If there are underage
minors watching later on, don’t stay.” But police
were too late to save the girl.
Is the answer to prescreen live streams, in
the same way that broadcast television has a
multi-second “dump” button so that they don’t
run afoul of the Federal Communications Com-
mission and its decency laws ( go2sm.com/
indecent)? Probably not. But if the number of
“shock videos” rises on social live streaming
platforms, it’s likely that they’ll either be lit-
igated or regulated. Or maybe even both, as
some events have continued to be broadcast for
hours after the companies were warned about
the type of objectionable or illicit content being
shown in a particular live stream.
Twitter, which is Periscope’s parent company, faced questions about a number of acts—
from kidnapping to rape to suicide—that were
being livestreamed via Periscope.
“To maintain a healthy platform, explicit
graphic content is not allowed,” noted Twitter
spokesperson Ian Plunkett in May 2016, after
the Egly suicide incident. “Explicit graphic con-
tent includes … bodily harm. Periscope is not
for content that is intended to incite violence,
or includes a direct and specific threat of vio-
lence to others.”
The consolidation of Twitter and Periscope,
a text broadcast tool merged with a live video
streaming tool, means it’s even easier to draw
an audience, clearing a streamlined path to-
ward self-promotion of self-harm live streams.
Speaking personally, as a father, the ease of
live narrowcasting on social media platforms
concerns me, if not for my own daughters
then for friends of theirs. Teens will be teens,
of course, but in their yearning for attention,
they sometimes make split-second choices they
As an industry, we shouldn’t help them make
those choices in front of a global audience. Our
best and brightest need to address ways to safeguard against this type of easy live-stream access, yet the “we don’t allow that type of content”
mantra is too often used by the major players.
We all know that mantra is just a cover-your-ass approach that makes the overall industry
appear as if it condones this type of unfiltered
content. It won’t do.
Dying to Stream
Tim Siglin is a streaming industry veteran and longtime
contributing editor to Streaming Media magazine.
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