Facebook says it was not alerted to the 17-minute video, which shows an armed man killing dozens of Muslims at prayer, until after the massacre was over. By that point, users on the alleged shooter’s favourite messaging board had already copied the video and distributed it widely.
Fifty people were killed in the attack last Friday at two separate mosques in Christchurch. The attack was live-streamed online from a bodycam worn by gunman.
The first user to report the original video did so 29 minutes after it started, and 12 minutes after the live feed ended, Chris Sonderby, vice president and deputy general counsel at Facebook, said in a news release late Monday. Sonderby said Facebook took down the video within minutes of being told about it by New Zealand police, and said the original video was viewed approximately 4,000 times before it was removed.
Facebook relies on users to report inappropriate content on its platform, although it also uses artificial intelligence to screen potentially offensive content.
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Facebook censors removed 1.5 million videos of the mosque attack within the first 24 hours after it happened, and its software blocked another 1.2 million from being uploaded, Sonderby wrote.
The alleged shooter is believed to have promoted the massacre ahead of time on 8chan, an online messaging board where violence, racism and misogyny are encouraged. The author of the promotional post remained anonymous, but he or she linked to a Facebook page belonging to user brenton.tarrant.9, where the attack was live-streamed.
Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, was arrested and charged in the wake of the attack.
“I will carry out an attack against the invaders, and will even livestream the attack via Facebook,” the user wrote.
The post also included links to a 74-page manifesto claiming the attack was motivated by fears of “white genocide.”
When the attack began on Friday, one anonymous 8chan user wrote: “actually happening. delete this thread now or its gonna be the end of 8pol (an 8chan messaging board).”
A few minutes later, another said “this sounds fun,” according to Reuters
“Nice shootin Tex,” another commented.
Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google, which owns YouTube, have come under fire for allowing the shooting video to spread through their platforms.
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“Social media companies are international businesses and it’s up to the international community to force them to act,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday.
The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism says it has added the “digital fingerprints” of 800 different versions of the mosque shooting video to a shared database used to block violent terrorist images and videos. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google lead the group of companies.
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Facebook says users on 8chan were responsible for downloading the original video and spreading it widely. The site is akin to 4chan, another anonymous forum where users routinely share racist, sexist, homophobic and violent content, conspiracy theories and memes. The 8chan website describes itself as the “darkest reaches of the internet.”
Many anonymous users have been applauding the attack on 8chan since last week, with some hailing the suspect as a hero.
New Zealand internet service providers have reportedly started blocking sites that do not remove the video, including 8chan, 4chan and LiveLeak.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in a speech to Parliament Tuesday that she would not say the accused’s name.
“He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing — not even his name,” she said.
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Ardern says she has been in contact with Facebook about the videos.
“They have given us updates on their efforts to have it removed, but as I say, it’s our view that it cannot — should not — be distributed, available, able to be viewed,” she said.
“It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”
—With files from The Associated Press and Reuters