When Facebook Live was created it was thought of to be a way for friends and family to share moments in real-time. Family in other locations could share in birthday celebrations, friends could share footage from their night out, and so much more. While there was nothing but good intentions behind the service, it would seem as of late that Facebook Live is being exploited for much darker intentions. This dark side of social media is showing us that not only are the monsters real, they’re on our social media feeds.
It’s been only a few months since a Cleveland man live-streamed himself shooting and killing Robert Godwin Sr., a 74-year-old grandfather who had been walking home from an Easter meal with his family. Days after the shooting, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg said during Facebook’s annual developer’s conference, “We have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”
Now, as more and more twisted individuals have been using the service to broadcast events of unspeakable violence pressure is being placed on Facebook to have better response times to reports and to become more efficient in policing the service.
In the latest incident to come to light, three Mississippi teens have been arrested after they broadcasted the physical and sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman who is suspected of being mentally disabled.
According to The Miami Herald, 17-year-old Ezzie Johnson began the broadcast as the victim was being sexually assaulted by another man in the bathroom of a Gulfport home. As the victim emerges from the bathroom, she’s informed by Johnson that they’re live on Facebook. The victim sits on the couch where a group of people have gathered and continues to be berated by Johnson, who accuses the victim of being a sex worker.
The violence quickly escalates as one of the young men in the group asks the victim if she is ready to go home. Haleigh Alexis Hudson, 19, quickly interjects, stating: “She ain’t going home until her throat swells up,” according to the Clarion Ledger, who was able to view the full video before it was removed.
Hudson then proceeds to physically assault the victim as some members of the group cheer her on. Johnson continues to watch his Facebook stream and reads the comments out loud during the altercation. The victim attempts to leave, but Hudson holds the door and pulls the victim back into the fight.
The video would go viral and receive more than 48,000 views. Though Facebook removed the video, excerpts have since emerged elsewhere online.
“I can’t help but be disturbed by the incredible numbers of shares and views of this crude and despicable event,” Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania stated during a press conference on the incident, “We videotape pain and suffering, then we share it and then we view it over and over.”
Police have since arrested both Hudson and Johnson, as well as 17-year-old Kadari Fabien Booker who is also believed to have been involved in the incident. All three have been charged with kidnapping and sexual battery charges, with a possibility of more charges pending if the victim is found to be mentally disabled. Both of the 17-year-olds are being charged as adults.
Papania believes there may be more arrests as the investigation continues.
Zuckerburg stated last May that he plans to hire an additional 3,000 employees to improve report response times. Only time will tell when these changes will be fully implemented in order to ensure that incidents like the dozens of acts of unspeakable violence that have occurred through the service within the past year will begin to decrease.