How To Report Facebook Live Crime

How To Report Facebook Live Crime

Chloe Seaman
May 3, 2017

The more we use technology, the more some people will use it in bad ways. The alarming occurrences of crimes being committed on Facebook Live are an example of this unfortunate reality.

There’s the murder of Robert Godwin Sr., an elderly man chosen at random by his perpetrator; the rape of a 15-year-old girl who knew her attackers; the torture of a special-needs teen, to name a few. All of these crimes happened live on Facebook, the videos streamed by the wrongdoers for thousands to witness.

Fame-hungry criminals

Crimes have been going “viral” and criminals have sought the spotlight long before social media was a thing. Before videos went viral on Facebook, images of the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald were printed in mass and even though Jack the Ripper didn’t have a Twitter, this killer mocked London law enforcement with handwritten letters.

For as long as there has been an audience, criminals have been “motivated to maximize the impact on society of his or her acts of violence by making sure as many people as possible will know about them.” Unfortunately, social media has provided an outlet for such heinous persons.

The bystander effect

The story of Kitty Genovese – a 28-year-old woman who was murdered in front of thirty-eight witnesses and not one of them did anything to help – exemplifies what we see happening with recent Facebook Live crimes: That few – if any – individuals report the crimes, or any suspicious or violent behavior.

You might be wondering how that can be. Well, the answer lies in what we know about human psychology.

Subsequent the murder of Kitty Genovese, social psychologists popularized the concept of the bystander effect: A phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to help a victim or report a crime because other people are present.

It might sound crazy (how could you not report a crime you see happening?), but as hard to believe as it is, it’s still, unfortunately, true.

Your Checklist for Reporting Facebook Live Crime

Facebook has been criticized for its handling of these crimes. But there’s nothing stopping you from doing what you can do to help. Here’s a checklist to run through in case you encounter an alleged crime on Facebook Live:

1. Call the police

Immediately call the police. It does not matter if you don’t know where the crime is happening, or if it’s even occurring in your state. Call to report what you see happening.

2. Look for descriptive details

The more information you can provide to law enforcement, the sooner they can track down the crime. Look for any descriptive details that can help the police: A street sign, a unique characteristic of a person, words spoken that could provide a clue, etc.

3. Consider if sharing will help

Sharing will not necessarily help stop the crime; think back to the bystander effect we explained earlier. Pause before sharing the video on your network, because this could be exactly what the “fame-hungry criminal” wants.

4. Report the video to Facebook

Facebook has professional moderators who will welcome the chance to take the post if it violates their terms of service. They may also be able to help law enforcement with information that only they have, such as technical information relating to the account where the video was shared from.

To report anything on Facebook, click the Report link that appears near the content itself. For more information, see Facebook’s How to Report Things.

5. Record the video with your phone or take screenshots

While some criminal videos go viral, many others won’t. You can gather the evidence. If you don’t, the wrongdoer can end the livestream and delete the video at any time; making it much more difficult or perhaps impossible to prove a crime was committed. Your evidence could potentially help the police track down the suspect.

6. Do NOT contact the wrongdoer

If someone is committing a crime on social media, there’s also a high chance he or she is doing it for notoriety. Making comments (even if you’re trying to help) could further entice the wrongdoer to continue the harmful acts.

Don’t assume someone else will report Facebook Live crime. If you see something, say something.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.