Prime Minister Scott Morrison Calls For Livestreaming To Be Suspended

Following the livestreaming of the horrific terrorist attack last Friday by a white supremacist, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for livestreaming to be suspended across all social media as a result of the inability of major tech companies to respond more effectively to the situation.

As reported by the Australian Financial Review, the Prime Minister said that the capacity for tech giants was "very limited" in scenarios like these. "In the past, they have suspended this sort of Facebook live-streaming, and assurances were given that when it was put back up it could avoid this," Prime Minister Morrison remarked.

He went on to suggest that livestreaming capabilities should be suspended across all social media until more stringent capabilities can be put in place to prevent the livestreaming of content like was seen on Friday. "There is very real discussions that have to be had about how these facilities and capabilities, as they exist on social media, can continue to be offered where there can’t be the assurances given at a technology level," he added. "Once these images get out there, it is very difficult to prevent them.”

While the mass murderer used Facebook to livestream the killings on Friday, the suspension of livestreaming services would impact not just Facebook, but also YouTube, Twitter, Twitch and Microsoft (through Mixer). Instagram would also be affected.

24 hours after the attacks, Facebook already removed 1.5 million videos or reuploads. Facebook currently creates an individual visual footprint of each video and livestream as it is uploaded, which allows it to act more quickly should that content be spread across the platform. But should watermarks, changes in colour or other small adjustments be made to future uploads, the original digital footprint is no longer sufficient.

Along with Facebook, a spokesperson for Twitter also provided a statement to media highlighting the platform's efforts in removing the aforementioned content. "We have dedicated government and law enforcement reporting channels for illegal content. We have a specially trained team that reviews each report against the Twitter Rules and our Terms of Service, and determines whether or not it is in violation," the spokesperson said.

Kotaku Australia has contacted Twitch and Microsoft for comment, but with their media teams predominately based in the United States no response was available at the time of publication. We'll update this story when and if those comments become available.

The broader problem, however, is one of design. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch and other social media platforms by design don't screen speech or video before its hosted. Some of those platforms do scan the content immediately post-upload, like YouTube's Content ID database which creates fingerprints of audio and visual content from reference files. But these systems aren't setup to block content before its shared.

"We don’t check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don’t think society should want us to," Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying back in 2017.


Comments

    I get why he wants it, but short of having a dedicated person/system monitoring everything everyone does 24/7 or a Minority Report style prognostication system you're just not going to be able to catch this stuff. Then you also have to think about the situation where someone is live streaming and catches something on stream in the background.

    It's basically the same as every other time governments have wanted social media to prevent bad people from using but can't provide any way of detecting them other than "Magically detecting good people".

      It wouldn't matter if it was stopped on the major sites anyway. They could stream it to somewhere else and provide a link.

      It's another example of a kneejerk reaction from politicians when something bad happens - blame technology (or at least try to block technology).

        Scott Morrison puts the "jerk" in kneejerk

        Someone will always be willing to host content, no matter how repellent. The only people who will comply with his ban are the law abiding sites who aren't really the problem anyway.

        True. When gun shootings happen, they proceed to blame video games. Like they have nothing to do with all these.

      On a tangent but maybe these tech companies *should* start employing people to monitor livestreams to ensure they don't overstep. Broadcast TV and streaming services such as Netflix need to adhere to strict rules on what they can and can't show but livestreams aren't subject to these rules. Yes, all the various services do have rules, but they rely on being policed by the general community for the most part, and punishment like account suspensions etc usually happen AFTER the fact and only if enough people complain. Very rarely if ever have I actually heard of a livestream being cut mid-stream.

      If these tech giants say they don't have the resources for that kind of thing, they should probably find ways to get those resources. Just a random thought.

        I couldn't find upload stats and I'm not sure how much is streamed, but 100 million hours of video get watched every day on facebook (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/facebook-stats-for-marketers/).
        Even if streaming is only 1% of all that, that's an astronomical amount of hours to sift through. You realize how much of your data Facebook would have to sell off to afford that?

          I realise it's a big task but if ANYONE has the resources to do something like that it would be these mega tech companies like Facebook and Google.

          At the end of the day they are responsible for what appears on their platform, user generated or not, so all I'm saying is that maybe they should start looking into some kind of solutions which may involve monitoring livestreams to some extent.

            Except under US law, they are not, for the most part. legally, they are insulated from content posted by users until a law enforcement request to take it down is issued. Its only in Europe that they can be held accountable for the content their users post.

            Well if you want to be technical the government is responsible for the societal issues facing our society and it is their responsibility to stop these things from happening. These social services only bring to light the twisted people already in existence they don't create. These fanatical people existed long before social media and will exist regardless if the government bans their services.

    I'm hoping ScoMo knows that it's nigh on impossible that these companies would stop livestreaming and he's just trying to look like he is doing something about it. It's either that or he is absolutely clueless.

      I think it's a little of A and a little of B.

      *looks at internet filter as an example*

        Heck, the UK is going ahead with a crazy one. I wouldn't put it past them trying again here. What a target for hackers.

    Dangerous road this travels. Its a knee jerk reaction to a bad situation as usual. Pity we don't have a first amendment over here it would be protected under.

    Ban cars, while we're at it, because no-one can guarantee one won't be used to mow down footpath users.

      They're on the way to that - driverless cars.

      But seriously, yeah trying to ban or block technology with valid uses because some asshole using it for a negative reason is a stupid idea. If we did that we'd never have any tools at all "Gronk use stick to hit Ugh on head. Stick banned!"

    Can't stop traditional media from using the video footage *Sky News* so why the focus on livestream?

    So they've finally figured out that platforms that rely on users to submit content without pre-approval are basically impossible to rapidly police. For once I can empathise with Facebook - it's not an easy task to police such a vast array of content being uploaded so rapidly. AI is still awful at this stuff, and if you become overzealous and too strict, people will just stop using the platform. They can't do anything except react - and they rely on people reporting content to do so.

      Yeah, I'm really not sure what they were meant to have been doing.

      Humans don't watch OR respond to this shit, because there's just SO MUCH of it. You'd keep entire nations employed doing nothing but, and they still wouldn't keep up with an algorithm.

      And it's not like someone tags their content with, "Terrorism in progress," or something similarly fucking stupid so you can identify what kind of content is being produced and reported (I assume people were reporting it). And given the base-line of bot-reporting that ANY famous enough content would get, you'd have to assume there's some kind of threshold.

      In the end, I think they reported that there were over a million attempts by users to share and upload copies of similar content, too, which again - how the fuck do you police that instantly? I'm betting once they were alerted to it being terrorism-in-progress, they did a similar content-matching process to the matching that's used to comb through and take down music in videos that infringes copyright.

      It's like when Elizabeth Warren pulled that stunt putting an ad on Facebook that criticized Facebook, and pretending it was an 'Aha!' gotcha moment when Facebook pulled it down... except that they weren't doing it to censor criticism, but because Warren's folks had included a Facebook logo that triggered the algorithm to take it down as misrepresenting.

      I agree with the overall message, but it's not at all helpful to manufacture shitty examples like that, and it broadly hurts the cause when you can point to just how disingenuous the complainer is being when they pull that kind of bullshit. Facebook's bad enough without having to manipulate some crap to make up a fake complaint.

      They get no sympathy from me. They weren't a small streaming website that got big. They're a soulless social media giant that looked at streaming, knew full well they couldn't moderate it adequately and exactly what sort of content people on their platform tried to post every day, and then pursued it anyway because expansion is profitable. They know their limits so why do they get a free pass to bite off far more than they can chew?
      These platforms already get so much flexibility when it comes to exploiting user generated content, and then we top it off by defending them when they show they're not willing to put any meaningful work into moderating them. As much as I believe that it's not possible to win the war on bad content they barely even fight. They use algorithms that don't get anywhere near the attention the feed algorithms do and they human elements that could easily be doubled. At the very least there should always be pressure for them to increase their standards.

        They weren't a small streaming website that got big.Yes, exactly - they aren't small. It's pretty much impossible for them to police every single piece of content at the point of upload - the algorithms simply aren't that good enough because machine learning is still in its infancy. It's possible to very easily fool them. Any automated system is going to either be ineffective unless near-identical content is submitted, or it's going to have so many false positives that users will get frustrated and stop using the platform.

        You can pressure them to increase standards but at some point right now you hit a technical limitation or an absolute manpower limitation - you're understating the problem significantly. For the kind of 'blocking' people are requesting it means checking all content manually - remember, 1.5 million were removed in 24 hours, that's over a thousand videos per minute of the attack that was removed alone. Add on top those that slipped by, and all of the other content that would need to be assessed, and you can see the magnitude of the problem. Some of that might be automated with machine learning but it's still bad at it and needs human oversight to get it right.

        It's not trivial in the slightest.

        So what's the solution? No-one gets to be big?

        That strikes me as chopping off your nose to spite your face.

    Shut down the police force. Until 100% of crimes are prevented.

    It is about time that social media companies took proper responsibility for providing a platform for literally anyone to say or show whatever they want. How to go about policing social media is a different story and there'll be the inevitable calls of 'repression of free speech' and 'censorship' if/when it does happen. However, more and more there seems to be little consequence of people's actions online because no-one wants to take responsibility for them and at the moment no-one is holding social media companies accountable for what they allow. Yes I know social media platforms didn't make this lunatic do what he did, but they help spread the word and in a way glamorise it to people who might be supportive of whatever his motives were (and no, I'm not saying it was glamorous what he did).

    I've always been of the opinion that the internet is a wonderful creation, but it's given every person in the world a platform to shout out loud and give them an audience, and that's not a good thing in my eyes (and every time I'm aware of the irony of posting that opinion on a message board)

    It would be nice to have adults and experts in charge of our country instead of a bunch of bankers and political science graduates.

    Facebook is just another scapegoat for the real problems in our society. But that's the level that the Libs are at, so who cares what he even thinks.

    How about we ban these kinds of guns that enable nutters like this to go on shooting sprees? Just a thought...

    Last edited 18/03/19 2:35 pm

    Typical kneejerk reaction. Yes, let's shutdown livestreaming! Nevermind the folks who earn their income (either main or supportive) with livestreaming.

    Shit like this is posted on the dark web, regardless of what the various streaming services can do. If people want to see it, they can see this, and worse.

    I think one of the factors is the media reporting on the stream... that creates interest for one.

    But the worse a news site I went to posted the video... but their site autoplays videos. FFS Thats going to far!

    I don't get it. Was it wrong that he killed people or that he broadcast killing people?

    Yes, we must completely shut off the ability to livestream. Its too dangerous....

    Just disregard the fact that the vast majority of livestreams are not showing objectionable content, lets just focus on the 0.000001%

      Just to balance the argument for a second. Traditional media typically delays broadcasts and filters the most objectionable content for the audience. So you don't have situations like this where *anyone* can view people being murdered live. Something that's bad enough for mature adults to view let alone children.

      I can understand that he wants to protect people from that. However, the reality is a situation where that filtering is either incredibly difficult if not downright impossible. So I don't think his intent is bad, just misguided. I think rather than calling for companies to suspend live-streaming it's more logical to ask them to look into better filtering algorithms. Or some sort of priority reporting/blocking mechanism. So that the instant something like this is detected it can be blocked.

      Side note: The servers at twitch/facebook/youtube/wherever should still store the video since it'd be incredibly valuable to the authorities. Just not play it to others.

    The sub-title of this article definitely should have been "Old Man Yells At Cloud"

    Thats going to undermine the growing area of esports, livestream online blogging and journalism, livestream D&D. That like suggesting Australians dont get to own a car while groups of foreign nationals can show up in humvees with guns and camo (you know who you are America). Seriously why even undermine the right of the future to exist? It just encourages more flat earth antivaxxer gun happy idiots.

    This is just one step closer to Australia becoming a police state, I for one strongly object to being told what to think when to think it, what I can watch what to say, Australia is becoming a country scared of democracy scared of free speech all the thing that made Australia great.
    It has been successive coalition government who have got us into this mess all the way back to menzies sending Australian troops into wars that are not our own.
    howard and abbott among the worst howard send Australian troops to iraq on false information abbott just because he could it is pitiful and pathetic these people do not serve the country they only serve self interests the sooner there gone the better

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