The digital minister, Margot James, has raised concerns about the regulation of online live streaming in the aftermath of the New Zealand shootings. In them an alleged terrorist broadcast footage of an attack on two mosques live on Facebook.
James, whose department is preparing to unveil the government’s proposals on tackling online harms, said she was unhappy that footage of the attack, which could never be allowed on traditional television channels, was easily available on social media.
“The tragic events in New Zealand last week have highlighted more issues, not least the ease with which intrusive, deeply offensive and very harmful content which contravenes every known broadcasting standard could be broadcast with such ease to a global audience,” she said.
“During the first 24 hours after this tragedy Facebook now say they removed 1.5m videos,” she told the Oxford Media Convention. “1.2m were blocked at the point of upload – that’s good. That still left 300,000 shares unchecked for too long. The impact that has really does call into question the future of live streaming.”
New Zealand’s prime minster, Jacinda Ardern, has called for talks with Facebook about how the video was allowed to remain on its server for up to an hour after the attack and what it did to stop the spread of the footage. The original copy attracted hundreds of thousands of views in a short period of time before being removed, at which point it was repeatedly re-uploaded by other users.
Facebook took the unusual step of releasing statistics on the number of uploads it has had to deal with in the aftermath of the attack, while confirming it would remove all videos featuring any clips of the terrorist’s video, even if they do not show footage of the killings themselves.
James suggested platforms had a responsibility, especially around the livestreaming of events. Facebook’s Live video platform has gained a reputation for hosting videos of murders and suicides since it was introduced for all users in 2016.
She said the government’s policy on media regulation was to attempt to bring regulation of internet media in line with the systems applied to traditional media. She said: “There are limits to total freedom of expression which apply offline, which need to apply to online urgently.
“The respected and effective systems of self and statuary regulation – and high journalistic standards – that have always been applied to the verification and sources of story, is of course entirely absent from the online platform environment.”