Tech firms are scrambling to keep dozens of copies of videos showing the New Zealand mosque shootings off their platforms

Shona Ghosh/Business Insider
  • Facebook, Google, and Twitter are playing whack-a-mole with distressing footage that appears to show Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand.
  • The original video is thought to have been posted to Facebook by a man identifying himself as Brenton Tarrant. The footage was deleted by the social network.
  • That hasn’t stopped other users from ripping the video and uploading it to Facebook and other sites such as Twitter and YouTube.
  • Business Insider found the video on Facebook and YouTube by typing a misspelling of Tarrant’s name.
  • The New Zealand police have yet to name any suspects, and the problem shows how hard it is for large tech firms to keep up with moderating content around distressing, newsworthy incidents.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other major tech firms are battling to keep distressing footage of a gunman firing on two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, from appearing on their platforms.

The Friday attack left at least 49 people dead and 49 injured.

You can read the full story here.

The New Zealand police have not named any suspects in the attack, though one man is said to have been charged with murder.

A man identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant is thought to have posted a livestream of himself carrying out the attacks.

That footage was posted to Facebook. Accounts linked to Tarrant also shared a 74-page document on white-supremacist themes seeking to justify the attack.

The New Zealand police have asked the public not to share distressing video related to the shootings.

Facebook told INSIDER on Friday morning that it had removed the original livestream and the account it was posted from. It has also deleted an Instagram account.

Twitter likewise suspended Tarrant’s account.

HuffPost reported that the document was first posted to the online messaging board 8chan and Tarrant’s now-suspended Twitter account.

Deletion hasn’t prevented others from ripping and uploading new versions of the video and manifesto.

Business Insider was easily able to find the video reposted to YouTube and Facebook from other accounts. Each video had a warning of graphic content attached, but that doesn’t prevent users from clicking through and watching the footage.

We were also able to find links to Tarrant’s extremist manifesto through Twitter and Google.

New Zealand copycat footage YouTubeShona Ghosh/Business Insider/YouTubeCopycat footage appearing on YouTube.

Part of the issue is that users are getting around social-media moderation with minor manipulation of search terms.

They are, for example, uploading Tarrant’s manifesto and livestreamed footage and captioning it with a misspelled version of his name.

Google removed the reposted video after it was flagged by Business Insider. Facebook acknowledged a version of the video found on its site by Business Insider.

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the community affected by this horrendous act,” a Facebook spokeswoman, Mia Garlick, said. “New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and the video.

“We’re also removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we’re aware. We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues.”

Facebook is using a mix of technology, user reports, and human reviewers to catch videos or other violating content related to the incident.

Twitter confirmed it was proactively taking down copies of the video. “We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Christchurch today,” a spokeswoman said. “Twitter has rigorous processes and a dedicated team in place for managing exigent and emergency situations such as this. We also cooperate with law enforcement to facilitate their investigations as required.”

A Google spokeswoman said: “Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy. Shocking, violent, and graphic content has no place on our platforms, and is removed as soon as we become aware of it. As with any major tragedy, we will work cooperatively with the authorities.”

Social-media firms are not the only ones under fire. Newspaper websites including MailOnline, The Sun, and the Daily Mirror were criticised for hosting parts of Tarrant’s manifesto or edited footage of the original livestream.

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