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Facebook's live-streaming video brings violence and death closer than ever

By Mathew Ingram
June 17, 2016
June 17, 2016

Facebook Live, the social network’s popular live-streaming video feature, has become a home for a wide range of content, including the famous video of a Star Wars fan enjoying her new purchase of a talking Chewbacca mask.

But the feature has a darker side as well. On Wednesday, a Chicago man was shot and killed while filming himself on Facebook Live.

According to Chicago police, 28-year-old Antonio Perkins was shot at about 8:45 p.m. while streaming video of himself and a number of friends who had gathered on South Drake Street.

Perkins can be seen talking to the camera while walking, and then multiple shots are heard, and he falls to the ground. The screen goes dark, but bystanders can be heard screaming in the background. The video had been watched more than 550,000 times by mid-afternoon on Friday.

Perkins was a father of three young children and worked at McDonald’s, according to a local radio station that reported on the incident. Police said Perkins had ties to a local gang, but his family told the station he was no longer involved in gang-related activity.

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A Facebook spokesperson told CNN that the video hasn’t been removed because it doesn’t violate the company’s community standards. Videos that incite violence are taken down, but Facebook said the Perkins video doesn’t fall into that category. The video does have a warning telling viewers it is graphic.

The incident is the second time this week that Facebook Live has been used during a violent crime. On Tuesday, an ISIS sympathizer in France stabbed a police office and his partner and took the couple’s 3-year-old son hostage.

While in the couple’s house, the attacker broadcast a message live on Facebook with the boy in the background. (He was later rescued by a SWAT team.) The video has been removed.

In March, a second man in Chicago was shot at while filming himself on Facebook Live, although he survived the attack. Brian “Sugar Ray” Fields was recording video while outside a store when a gunman walked up and fired 16 shots, five of which struck Fields. As he is streaming, the phone falls to the ground and the shooter can be seen briefly in the video stream. Fields is still in hospital.

Although he didn’t film the shooting on Facebook Live, the gunman in the recent attack in Orlando—in which 49 people were shot and killed at a gay nightclub—posted to Facebook and searched for mentions of his crime while he was still inside the club, according to a letter released by the Senate committee on homeland security.

As the popularity and availability of live streaming video increases, so does the potential for violent crimes to be broadcast live by bystanders, or even those involved. In April, an 18-year-old woman from Ohio broadcast the rape of a 17-year-old on Periscope, the live-streaming service operated by Twitter.

The woman claimed she was filming the incident in order to document the crime, but the prosecutor on the case said that she “got caught up in the likes.”

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