Facebook to Review Content Reporting System in Wake of Cleveland Murder

Facebook will review its content reporting system in the wake of the Cleveland murder.

Facebook announced Monday its plans to improve content review methods and make the social networking service a safe environment for all. In the wake of the ongoing nationwide search for Facebook murder suspect Steve Stephens, much attention has been given to the discussion of Facebook's responsibility in preventing the broadcast of violence.

In a lengthy Community Standards and Reporting update Monday, Facebook VP of Global Operations Justin Osofsky clarified the timeline of Stephens' activity and promised the company was working to improve the speed and effectiveness of reviews processes. "On Sunday morning, a man in Cleveland posted a video of himself announcing his intent to commit murder, then two minutes later posted another video of himself shooting and killing an elderly man," Osofsky said Monday. "A few minutes after that, he went live, confessing to the murder. It was a horrific crime — one that has no place on Facebook, and goes against our policies and everything we stand for."

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Osofsky said that, in this specific instance, Facebook didn't receive a report until more than an hour and 45 minutes after the second video (which included the shooting) was shared. Within 23 minutes of receiving the first report of the shooting video, Facebook disabled the suspect's account.

Here's the timeline of events, according to Facebook:

  • 11:09AM PDT — First video, of intent to murder, uploaded. Not reported to Facebook.
  • 11:11AM PDT — Second video, of shooting, uploaded.
  • 11:22AM PDT — Suspect confesses to murder while using Live, is live for 5 minutes.
  • 11:27AM PDT — Live ends, and Live video is first reported shortly after.
  • 12:59PM PDT — Video of shooting is first reported.
  • 1:22PM PDT — Suspect's account disabled; all videos no longer visible to public.

"In addition to improving our reporting flows, we are constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment," Osofsky added. "Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety." Portions of such videos, however, will still be allowed to be shared if used to "condemn them, or for public awareness."

A $50,000 reward for information leading to Stephens' arrest was announced Monday. Though police in Philadelphia recently received reports of unconfirmed sightings of the suspect, the New York Timesreported that there is currently "no indication" he had actually been in the area. Stephens is wanted for what police have characterized as a "random shooting" of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. An aggravated murder arrest warrant has been issued. Though Stephens said on social media Sunday that he had killed additional people, police have only confirmed a single victim.

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