Global social networking giants Facebook, Twitter and Youtube all failed to adequately respond when a white supremacist gunman murdered 51 people in New Zealand, live streaming the event on the internet.

But at least they tried. Media companies around the world were condemned across those same social platforms for embedding often heavily censored snippets of the attack in their news feeds.

So far only Facebook has released any meaningful figures, saying it stopped 1.2 million video play attempts out of 1.5 million at the point of upload in the first 24 hours, although critics suggest the total number of plays was much higher.

In a series of tweets from the Facebook newsroom, the company outlined the actions it has taken, most recently revealing it is in the process of removing even edited versions of the attack.

For its part Google removed the original video from Youtube when contacted by police, however, the damage had already been done. Clips of the video were copied and reposted thousands of times. Twitter provided a further platform which amplified the attack.

Questions

The failure of the platforms to adequately respond again raises questions about why technology giants which boast they can discern the intent of one buyer out of a billion in a millisecond, are unable to intervene more rapidly when their platforms are used to propagate violent events and hate speech.

Quoted in Bloomberg, Hany Farid, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Information and a senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project told the news service, “Once content has been determined to be illegal, extremist or a violation of their terms of service, there is absolutely no reason why, within a relatively short period of time, this content can’t be eliminated automatically at the point of upload. We’ve had the technology to do this for years.”

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