Focusing on live social video

By Larry Magid

Thanks to some relatively new apps and social media features, anyone can now star in their own live TV show. That’s mostly a good thing, but it brings up some new issues when it comes to safety, privacy and acceptable content.

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

People have been posting recorded video on social media for years. YouTube, the world’s largest depository of video, is itself a social media platform and Facebook, the world’s largest social media service, has long encouraged users to post video. Twitter also lets users post videos.

But now Twitter-owned Periscope and the Facebook Live feature that’s built-into Facebooks’ mobile apps for iOS and Android allow people to broadcast video in real time. Snapchat also has a live video service but it’s more of a one-to-one video telephone. Google Hangouts and Microsoft’s Skype allow for both one-to-one and group video chats, but not public broadcast.

Just as with professional TV broadcasts, there is a difference between live and recorded. Live is in the moment. You’re getting fresh content and in some cases, learning about events as they unfold. In some ways, live is easier to produce.

Viewers don’t expect polished and edited programs, and even if that is your goal, you don’t have the option to spend hours editing a live video. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Great fun

On a recent trip to Vietnam, I used my Android phone and Facebook Live to share my experiences with folks back home. These were far from professional productions, but it was fun to get instant feedback from people watching and answer questions — in real time — from my small but seemingly highly interested audience. Others are using Periscope and Facebook live to cover news events, interview speakers at conferences and sometimes document historic events as they occur.

Can be disturbing

The other thing that’s different about live video is that viewers are watching it in real time and, if something disturbing is broadcast, there is nothing anyone can do other than to stop watching or try to get the person to stop broadcasting or the service to cut them off.

In my capacity with, I sit on safety advisory boards at Twitter, Facebook, Google and Snapchat, all of which have policies that prohibit certain types of content, be it violent, sexual in nature, hateful, threatening or potentially dangerous.

These and most other social media companies allow users to report anything that violates company policy and have employees dedicated to reviewing and removing inappropriate content that comes to their attention. But, try as they may to police their services, they can never be on top of everything. Facebook’s 1.65 million daily active users post a lot of content as do the 310 million Twitter users and the hundreds of millions of others who post content to other sites. In July 2015, Statisca estimated that there were 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The concern about inappropriate live video made news recently when it was reported that a woman in France broadcast her own suicide. There have also been reports of live broadcasts of sexual assaults, beating, bullying incidences, terrorist activity, and other crimes.

In most cases that I know of, the videos were taken down by the respective social media sites but there is no way to erase the memories of those who saw the videos live or before they were removed. There are cases where video or pictures on non-gratuitous violence is allowed, such as news or citizen reports of acts that are newsworthy or depicted to arouse public awareness about atrocities.

Reporting abuse

Facebook Live allows viewers to report a live video while it’s in progress. That report, like all Facebook abuse reports, will be reviewed and, if the video violates the company’s terms of service, it will be removed or stopped if Facebook can get to it in time.

The company says that it escalates emergencies like suicide and self-harm to the top of the queue though there can never be any guarantee of immediate action for an online report. If you report a video or any other content on Facebook, the company does not disclose that report to the person who posted the content.

Periscope prohibits pornographic or “overtly sexual’ content, explicitly graphic content or media that is intended to incite violent and illegal or dangerous activities.

The company’s community standards also prohibit abuse, harassment, impersonation or posting of others’ “private, confidential information.” Viewers can report inappropriate content by scrolling to the bottom of the info panel and tapping the “Report Broadcast” button.

The company says that this action “will instantaneously alert our team of the inappropriate content.” If you see anything on Facebook, Periscope or any other service where you believe that someone’s life or safety is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911, even if you don’t know the person’s exact location. The 911 operator may be able to initiate an emergency response. If you’re aware of a potential suicide, you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800 273-8255. Child online sexual exploitation can be reported to the CyberTipLine at (800) 843-5678 or

Using the reporting features when we come across content that is inappropriate and disturbing is a way that we can all help make the Internet a better place, but just as with our physical communities, we have to remember that the Internet is populated by all kinds of people. Most are decent but there will always be those who test our limits as well as those who are in need of help.