Crixeo: Facebook Live


Facebook Live: Turn It On for Activism, But It Might Turn On You

“Stay with me,” Diamond Reynolds says at the beginning of her Facebook Live Stream, filmed on the evening of Wednesday, July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, from the passenger seat of the car. Her four-year-old daughter is in the backseat crying, while her boyfriend, Philando Castille, struggles to breathe in the driver’s seat beside her. There’s blood on his arm and soaking into his white T-shirt as he slowly bleeds to death. A police officer is standing outside the vehicle, still pointing his gun through the open window.

Diamond describes the scene as calmly as she can: “We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and the police…he killed my boyfriend.” The officer screams, apparently panicked and unnerved by what’s just taken place, “Keep your hands where I can see them! F*ck!” Reynolds remains calm as she tells the police officer, who’s still brandishing his weapon, “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

Philando, a 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor with no serious criminal record, died that evening from his injuries, while Diamond and her child were taken into police custody. At some point, her phone was confiscated and the video was taken offline. However, her friends and followers, who’d already witnessed the 10-minute live stream, quickly cried foul, compelling Facebook to restore the footage. They promptly blamed the censorship on a technical “glitch.”

By Thursday morning, the shooting was a major story. By noon, the live stream had been viewed more than 3.2 million times on Diamond’s Facebook profile alone. The video was raw, unfiltered and, more importantly, provided evidence before police could form their testimony. And in a world where police body cameras are seldom turned on, worn or even allowed to capture footage that can be used in court, Diamond Reynolds had decided to take matters into her own hands. By bringing the world into one of the worst experiences of her life, Diamond had changed the game — and Facebook Live.

Facebook Live was never intended to become a tool for people to document their experiences with police brutality or violent shootings. It was simply Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy for competing with traditional television, Snapchat and Periscope. Moreover, it was a way to stay relevant in an online world that is rapidly evolving from text-and-photo-driven content to live streams and video.

And with 1.7 billion users, Facebook couldn’t afford to lose their audience to other video services. Unveiled in the spring of 2016, Facebook Live offered a way to compete and generate content easily that was “designed to be unedited, unpredictable, and exist outside of a curated, career-friendly profile.” Zuckerberg even went so far as to say that “Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. When you interact live, you feel more connected in a more personal way.”