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NZ mosque shooting shows how online users find ways to share violent videos

Paresh Dave & Munsif Vengattil | Reuters/San Francisco | Bengaluru 16 Mar 19 | 09:21 PM

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Photo: AP

The Friday massacre at two New Zealand mosques, live-streamed to the world, was not the first internet broadcast of a violent crime, but it showed that stopping gory footage from spreading online persists as a major challenge for tech companies despite years of investment.

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The massacre in Christchurch was live-streamed by an attacker through his Facebook profile for 17 minutes, according to a copy seen by Reuters. Facebook said it removed the stream after being alerted to it by New Zealand police.

ALSO READ: Christchurch shootings must end NZ's innocence about right-wing terrorism


But a few hours later, footage from the stream remained on Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp. It also remained available on file-sharing websites such as New Zealand-based Mega.nz. People who wanted to spread the material had raced to action, rapidly repackaging and distributing the video across many apps and websites within minutes.

ALSO READ: Google struggles to keep Christchurch gunman's killing spree off Youtube


Other violent crimes that have been live-streamed include a father in Thailand in 2017 who broadcast himself killing his daughter on Facebook. After more than a day, and 370,000 views, Facebook removed the video.


But the viral reach of yet another obscene video caused politicians around the globe on Friday to voice the same conclusion: Tech companies are failing. As the massacre video continued to spread, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark in televised remarks said companies had been slow to remove hate speech.

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