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Facebook, YouTube blindsided by Christchurch gunman live video

17 March 2019

As the massacre video continued to spread, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in televised remarks said companies had been slow to remove hate speech.

The live footage of Friday's attacks, New Zealand's worst-ever mass shooting, was first posted to Facebook and has since been shared on Twitter, Alphabet Inc's YouTube and Facebook-owned Whatsapp and Instagram. In response, YouTube said it's "working vigilantly to remove any violent footage". A spokeswoman for Facebook New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said that such videos were quickly taken down.

The spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, said they have removed thousands of videos related to the incident. It also remained available on file-sharing websites such as New Zealand-based Mega.nz.

Action was not taken to remove it until New Zealand police alerted Facebook.

Hours after the shooting, Reddit took down two subreddits known for sharing video and pictures of people being killed or injured -R/WatchPeopleDie and R/Gore - apparently because users were sharing the mosque attack video.

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Other violent crimes that have been live-streamed include a father in Thailand in 2017 who broadcast himself killing his daughter on Facebook. In another case, the video was shared by a verified Instagram user in Indonesia with more than 1.6 million followers.

Frustrated with years of similar obscene online crises, politicians around the globe on Friday voiced the same conclusion: social media is failing. She said the attacks were shown live on Facebook for 17 minutes before being stopped.

"I think something must have changed in him during the years he spent travelling overseas", she added.

Facebook, YouTube and other social-media platforms are struggling to scrub offensive content from sites that generate billions of dollars in revenue from advertisers. Twitter and Google said they were working to stop the footage being reshared.

Facebook told CNET it had removed the unverified footage and was also pulling down "praise or support" posts for the shootings.

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The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs said in a statement that the video footage is "likely to be objectionable content under New Zealand law" and that "people who share the video of the shooting today in Christchurch are likely to be committing an offence".

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) named the gunman in a report as Brenton Tarrant, citing confirmation from a gym manager named Ms Tracey Gray.

The complete removal of the content is not easy and goes to the core of what these platforms were set up to do - give people an unrestrained voice to share their views. "I don't care about your profits", Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who is running for president, said at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

"Extremists will always look for ways to utilise communications tools to spread hateful ideologies and violence", she said. "We will do whatever is humanly possible for it to never happen again".

Britain's interior minister, Sajid Javid, also said the companies need to act.

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Facebook, YouTube blindsided by Christchurch gunman live video