Social Media Platforms Rush To Stop Spread Of New Zealand Shooting Footage

Shootings at two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques on Friday have reignited debate over social media’s handling of violent and extremist content.

A Facebook account bearing the same name as the alleged gunman apparently livestreamed the massacre on Facebook, and a manifesto was posted on a Twitter account by the same name as well.

The Twitter account, which violated the platform’s policies, has since been suspended and the site is working on taking down any existing video content related to the violence.

In a statement to HuffPost, a Twitter spokesperson said the company is “deeply saddened by the shootings,” noting that it has procedures for addressing such content.

“Twitter has rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this,” the spokesperson added. “We also cooperate with law enforcement to facilitate their investigations as required.”

Facebook New Zealand spokesperson Mia Garlick told HuffPost the company was alerted by police to the livestream on its site, and “quickly removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video.”

The platform also pledged to delete any sympathetic messages to the attacker or attackers as it becomes aware of such content. It remains unclear exactly how many perpetrators were involved.

“We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues,” Garlick added.

According to CNN, Facebook’s human moderators and its artificial intelligence were unable to detect the launch of the livestream.

On Twitter, YouTube stated that it is “working vigilantly to remove any violent footage” on its platform, indicating that the content had spread rapidly online and suggesting social media companies are finding it challenging to rein in.

YouTube’s handling of the footage drew criticism from British Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who argued that if the site can’t halt the dissemination of the videos, it should suspend new uploads across the board.

YouTube did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the matter.

Farhana Khera, the executive director of civil rights group Muslim Advocates, spoke out on the violence, condemning the bloodshed and demanding social media platforms stop the circulation of videos.

“We have spoken to Google, Facebook, and Twitter urging them to remove the footage and encourage anyone who sees it to report it to the platforms immediately,” Khera said in a statement released Friday.

At least 49 deaths have been reported with dozens more left injured since the shooting unfolded. Police have already charged a man in his 20s with murder, and three others have been taken into custody.

This story has been updated with statements from Facebook and Muslim Advocates.