The Facebook livestream that went online shortly after the recent shooting of Philando Castile was important for a number of reasons. It's undoubtedly going to be a major issue in the investigation of said shooting, and it has become a rallying cry for those taking whatever stances they're taking on the issues of racial harmony, police shootings, gun ownership, and a myriad of other social and political issues.
Low on the priority list, but still important, is that the video also forced Facebook to take more of an active stance on the kind of content it allows on its social network. Since the shooting, Facebook has released an official statement to clarify how it separates permissible graphic content from bannable violent imagery and video.
"The rules for live video are the same for all the rest of our content. A reviewer can interrupt a live stream if there is a violation of our Community Standards. Anyone can report content to us if they think it goes against our standards, and it only takes one report for something to be reviewed," Facebook's statement reads.
"One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those situations, context and degree are everything. For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video."
The Castile livestream video went down for a bit of time after it was posted, generating criticism that Facebook had pulled the video offline due to its graphic content. The Register has since claimed, based on unnamed sources speaking to its reporters, that police intervened to have the video temporarily removed from Facebook. The social network continues to deny these allegations.
"We're very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible. It was down due to a technical glitch, and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. We can confirm it was streaming live on Facebook. A couple hours after, it was down for about an hour. The video doesn't violate standards but we marked it as disturbing with a warning," reads a statement Facebook provided to TechCrunch. (Facebook hasn't elaborated on what the "technical glitch" actually was.)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his social network to comment on the livestream's contents a day after it went live. However, he didn't address any issues related to permissibility of the video on Facebook, nor why it briefly went offline.
"My heart goes out to the Castile family and all the other families who have experienced this kind of tragedy. My thoughts are also with all members of the Facebook community who are deeply troubled by these events," he wrote.
"The images we've seen this week are graphic and heartbreaking, and they shine a light on the fear that millions of members of our community live with every day. While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond's, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important -- and how far we still have to go."