Facebook has disputed reports that it took 3 hours to take down the gruesome murder video posted by 37-year-old Cleveland man Steve Stephens — dubbed the “Facebook killer” by some — which depicted him pulling a gun and killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin on Sunday.
The social media giant released a statement, calling the video “one that has no place on Facebook, and goes against our policies and everything we stand for.”
“We know we need to do better,” the statement reads. Facebook is now promising to review its reporting process and to continue “working on making that review process go even faster.”
The statement also included a “Timeline of Events,” meant to address confusion surrounding why it took so long for the video to be removed.
11:09 a.m. PDT: First video, of intent to murder, uploaded. Not reported to Facebook.
11:11 a.m. PDT: Second video, of shooting, uploaded.
11:22 a.m. PDT: Suspect confesses to murder while using Live, is live for 5 minutes.
11:27 a.m. PDT: Live ends, and Live video is first reported shortly after.
12:59 p.m. PDT: Video of shooting is first reported.
1:22 p.m. PDT: Suspect’s account disabled; all videos no longer visible to public.
According to Facebook’s timeline, the first video detailing Stephens’ intent to murder was uploaded at 11:09 a.m. The video of Godwin’s shooting was uploaded two minutes later, at 11:11. At 11:22, Stephens confessed to Godwin’s murder while using Facebook Live and was livestreaming for 5 minutes, according to Facebook. Five minutes later, the livestream ended and was reported “shortly after.”
The video of the shooting was first reported at 12:59 p.m., his videos were taken down and his account was disabled at 1:22 p.m., according to Facebook.
Based on that timeline, a little over 2 hours lapsed between when the video of Godwin’s murder was uploaded and when it was taken down by Facebook. It took the company a little over 20 minutes to remove Stephens’ video after it was first reported.
This is not the first time that Facebook has faced backlash for its social media policies and workflow around reporting objectionable content. It was roundly criticised when a video of a beating was streamed live on Facebook Live in January.
As of Monday afternoon, Stephens is still at large and Cleveland authorities said the manhunt for him had expanded to 5 states — Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan. After confessing to Godwin’s murder in a separate video posted to his Facebook page, Stephens said he intended to kill more people. Philadelphia schools were put on lockdown earlier in the day as authorities investigated reported sightings of Stephens in a nearby area, though they said there had been no evidence that Stephens was in the vicinity.
Cleveland police have also offered a $US50,000 for information regarding Stephens’ whereabouts.
You can read Facebook’s full statement below:
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. 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.
As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible. In this case, we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted. We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended.
We disabled the suspect’s account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind. But we know we need to do better.
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. Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety. (People are still able to share portions of the videos in order to condemn them or for public awareness, as many news outlets are doing in reporting the story online and on television). We are also working on improving our review processes. Currently, thousands of people around the world review the millions of items that are reported to us every week in more than 40 languages. We prioritise reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster.
Keeping our global community safe is an important part of our mission. We are grateful to everyone who reported these videos and other offensive content to us, and to those who are helping us keep Facebook safe every day.