The social platforms have the capability to create special signatures—called “hashes”—for inappropriate videos, to make it easier for their systems to find copies and automatically take them down.

It can be easy to bypass the algorithms by altering the images, as the Washington Post notes. The companies have been more successful at catching other kinds of content, like terrorist propaganda.

Violent, graphic content continues to be an issue. Sometimes it is difficult to figure out if the content is legitimate—perhaps from a news report or a user documenting a tragedy in real time. There’s also the question of whether the companies are devoting enough resources to designing systems that would be able to discern and catch videos like the New Zealand one, and what to do before these systems are sophisticated enough to do so.

Facebook said it indeed hashed the first video, and the subsequent ones it has been finding. It said it was using AI to detect new videos, using computer vision to detect gory images, and audio technology where the images prove problematic to identify.

Livestreaming is another issue—from the very beginning, Facebook has had problems with its Facebook Live feature, which has been used to broadcast crimes, including murders, in real time.

The bigger ethical questions

With every mass attack, like the Parkland shooting, social media fills up with content that boosts perpetrators’ visibility. And each time, the platforms disappoint with their response.

We also have to think about the platforms’ role—and the internet at large—before violent events. Misinformation and hate are allowed to spread easily, with algorithms and filter bubbles actually working to strengthen extreme beliefs.

“In some ways, it felt like a first—an internet-native mass shooting, conceived and produced entirely within the irony-soaked discourse of modern extremism,” writes Kevin Roose at The New York Times.

The shooter was extremely well-versed in internet culture and tactics, and formulated his “manifesto” so that it would spread as wide as possible, and urged others to share it.

Which they did, both wittingly and not.

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