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Live Video Features On Social Media Turns Users Into Citizen Journalists, But Should We Stream Murders?

10 July 2016, 10:20 am EDT By Lauren Keating Tech Times
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After the deaths of two black men and five police officers, social media has become a place where users are capturing and sharing live videos of these tragic events. While it’s important to tell these stories, should be we allowed to stream murders?  ( Photo: Kirill Kniazev | Flickr )

It is getting to the point where users can't go on social media without reading about yet another tragedy as violence continues to sweep the nation.

There are many benefits to having social media playing a pivotal role in how we consume news. Not only is it a way to share the stories about the lives lost as of late, but it's also a platform to voice opinions and to organize peaceful protests.

Now, thanks to live video streaming features on many platforms, users have turned into citizen journalists. Facebook may want users to share their lives with the world using Facebook Live, but the types of videos live broadcasted may not always be pretty.

For example, Diamond Reynolds from Minnesota used Facebook Live to share what happened after her fiancé Philando Castile was fatally shot by police.

The video was initially viewed 2.5 million times before it was removed from Facebook and then later reinstated with a warning label that reads, "This video contains graphic content and may be upsetting to some people." Facebook claims it was removed because of a technical error. The video has since been viewed more than five million times.

Reynolds' Live video continued to make its way on Facebook, which consists of the woman narrating what happened as Castile lay back in the passenger seat bleeding while her four-year-old was in the back seat.

This traffic stop-turned tragedy happened right after another black man lost his life in Louisiana. Alton Sterling was fatally shot by two Baton Rouge police officers while being held down on the ground.

Although the 48-second video was not live-streamed, it was too widely shared on Facebook and caused an uproar. There has since been another video that has surfaced from a different angle, with both videos being filmed by bystanders.

Since these tragedies, Facebook's News Feeds have been filled with users sharing these videos.

Just when the internet seemed fed up with all the violence, more videos captured on smartphones were shared to social platforms. This time, they showed the shootout in the Dallas, Texas sniper attack where five police officers were killed and 11 injured by alleged gunman Micah Xavier Johnson, who was later killed by a bomb squad robot.

The shootout happened on Thursday night during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest for the two men killed by police.

Facebook user Michael Bautista live-streamed from Dallas what was happening, with the video gaining more than 5.3 million views. A warning has also been added to the video for its graphic content.

Scrolling through the News Feed over the past three days, it has been hard not to see these videos appear — and it's not just on Facebook.

Snapchat currently has a Live Story called "Police Protests Erupt Nationwide" to share coverage of the nationwide police protests. However, users also captured footage of the alleged gunman opening fire in Dallas, as well as what the scene looked like from those who were at the exact location to the shootout or close by.

As the Snaps go from peaceful protesting to the violence against police officers, Snapchat also displays a warning to advise about the graphic content about to be seen.

The Snaps include people running, the sound of gunshots, police cars racing down the streets and those seeking protection.

Videos have also been shared on Twitter and Periscope, with the Dallas Police Department live-streaming a conference on Periscope on Thursday.

The positive thing about sharing videos like these live is that the stories of the lives lost may not have seen the light of day if they were not broadcasted in that moment. This goes to show the importance of citizen journalism.

While it also allows users to express their first amendment right, should social media really allow people to live broadcast murders? Where does the line fall between broadcasting events in such a raw form and censoring them so Timelines and Stories aren't filled with bloodbaths and extreme violence?

Should there be community standards? Will Facebook prevent users from sharing these types of videos in the future?

At least adding a warning is a happy medium for both the company and the user.

These stories are important to tell, and live videos allow those everyday people who happen to be in trenches tell them before bias and news outlets begin to make angles or edit the truth. Facebook wanted to be a place for news, and now it is, thanks to Live videos.

Photo: Kirill Kniazev | Flickr

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