The Dangers of Live Streaming

Emily Corwin, Editor in Chief

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A French woman intentionally falls under a train, broadcasting her suicide on the live streaming app Periscope.  A man Facebook Live streams himself shooting an innocent bystander on Easter Sunday.  A girl receives an obscene video from a mysterious follower on YouNow.  Live streaming apps like these, while allowing people to connect worldwide and broadcast events, are also the source of several inappropriate and violent incidents.  

 

Live streaming apps like YouNow, Periscope, and Twitch are designed to help teenagers’ and adults’ desire to connect to others, but their surge in popularity has attracted a different and more dangerous crowd: online predators.  Kids have adopted the streaming services to become like the Internet celebrities that they admire; they have been earning money for making streams because of the online donations viewers can give.  According to Jon Fingas of Engadget, “any live video service has the potential to show something terrible — and when Facebook has over 1.6 billion active users every month, that potential is stronger than usual.”  Because of the prevalence of child streamers, over-sharing of personal information happens too frequently, and predators can trick kids into sending their information.  

YouNow has become one of the most popular streaming services, with over 150,000 live broadcasts a day.

Some live stream users have taken advantage of the services’ lack of monitoring and video editing by broadcasting deaths or crimes.  There have been many incidents where people have died while streaming themselves; one of the more recent incidents occurred at the end of last year, when two teenage girls hit a tractor trailer because they were streaming on Facebook Live while driving. In response to the surge in suicide broadcasting, forensic psychology professor Dr. Katherine Ramsland explains, “Some want to get their name in the media, not for fame, because they don’t think they’ll be around for that, but because they want attention and they want people to notice.”

Steve Stephens, dubbed “The Facebook Killer”, murdered 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. on Easter Sunday and filmed it live on Facebook.

Streamers also take advantage of the lack of monitoring by committing crimes and broadcasting them.  One of the most recent and most talked-about stories is the manhunt for Cleveland killer Steve Stephens, who murdered Robert Godwin Sr. live on Facebook because his ex-girlfriend didn’t return his calls.

 

As more and more companies like YouTube and Google jump on the live streaming bandwagon, it is important to know both the benefits and dangers of broadcasting yourself.  Though these services  are a fun way to connect with others, they are also a space where streamers can easily broadcast inappropriate content without being monitored, and people are more prone to sharing personal information.  The next time you decide to broadcast yourself, be aware of what can happen when you go live.

 

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