Why New Zealand massacre videos are still plaguing social media
Days after a gunman livestreamed his massacre at two New Zealand mosques, the world’s biggest social networks are still struggling to remove the grisly footage from their sites.
YouTube says it is being forced to take extreme measures to try to suppress clips of the video — which was being uploaded to it at the rate of nearly once a second in the 24 hours after Friday’s attack — including bypassing its human reviewers in favor of an AI system to “automatically reject footage of the violence.”
“This was a tragedy that was almost designed for the purpose of going viral,” YouTube’s chief product officer, Neal Mohan, told The Washington Post, noting that accused killer Brenton Tarrant wore a body-mounted personal camera as he carried out the bloodbath that killed 50 people.
Facebook over the weekend said it was furiously yanking the footage — including at least 1.5 million clips during the first 24 hours after it happened.
Reddit — an online forum known for its tolerance of kooks and conspiracy theorists — also banned two of its most notorious subreddits, r/WatchPeopleDie and r/Gore, to try to stem the tide. The subreddits both feature videos of people being maimed and killed.
Mohan noted that footage spread more quickly online than in previous mass shootings such as Las Vegas because it was filmed by the alleged perpetrator himself.
He said the deluge of clips on YouTube was “unprecedented.
“We’ve made progress [taking them down], but . . . this incident has shown that, especially in the case of more viral videos like this one, there’s more work to be done,’’ he said, adding that some of the clips were edited in such a way to evade YouTube’s monitors.
In addition to bypassing its human reviewers, YouTube temporarily disabled users’ ability to filter videos by when they were uploaded — a tool that sickos use to find new massacre clips — and updated its settings to make “sure searches on this event pulled up results from authoritative news sources.”
The company said it also has “terminated” hundreds of accounts created to promote or glorify the shooter.
Twitter said it is actively encouraging users to report any graphic content that violates its rules.