Facebook, Rushing Into Live Video, Wasn’t Ready for Its Dark Side

Coverage Type: reporting
Facebook (new HQ), 1601 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA, United States

On orders from Mark Zuckerberg, more than 100 employees at Facebook were put into what the company calls “lockdown” when they showed up for work one Thursday early in 2016. They had been plucked from other projects to focus on the chief executive’s top priority—making it possible for more than a billion Facebook users to stream video live. Zuckerberg had made a snap decision near the end of a product meeting in his glass-walled office in Menlo Park (CA), to work around the clock to roll out Facebook Live, which took just two months. “This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it’s going to create new opportunities for people to come together,” he wrote in a Facebook post during the world-wide launch in April 2016.

At traditional companies, major product launches often take years. Technology firms, and Facebook in particular, emphasize speed even though they know it means there will be problems to iron out later. And there were problems. The live-video rush left unanswered many questions with which Facebook is still wrestling, especially how to decide when violence on camera needs to be censored. According to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, people have used Facebook Live to broadcast at least 50 acts of violence, including murder, suicides and the beating in January of a mentally disabled teenager in Chicago.


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