The problem with live streaming

Tech views

Posted by Gary Smith on March, 2019

Social media companies have been criticised for the live feed of the appalling terrorist attack in Christchurch New Zealand at the weekend.

There have been calls by many, including Labour deputy leader Tom Watson for regulation.

But what could be done?

What could be done to tame livestreaming in situations like this?

Clearly, the trouble with live streaming is that you don't know what it is until it streams.

You can clean up the copies of the videos in the aftermath. It was a good few hours until the video of the carnage was removed from facebook. That lack of speed is a problem.

The problem here is that it is easy for people to copy and post the video themselves. There are algorithms that can check for duplicate videos, but those copied videos can be disguised but still be the same videos (have you ever seen a smaller screen inside the video screen with a video in it? Tricks like this make finding duplicates difficult.)

And a video that says it is the video may not even be the video. Many times people post what appear to be genuine videos but are in fact links to another site which claims to host the actual video.

One idea (assuming this isn't being done now) might be to enforce a GPS location of the video source. That information could provide the authorities with a quick reference to see where the video source is coming from.

It would be theoretically possible to have a form of pre approval of the livestream, or perhaps only allow certain people to post livestreams. But part of the enjoyment of livestreaming for the vast majority of law abiding streamers is the immediacy and possibly the spontaneity of the stream.

Really the only thing that can be done is to get a system that can remove the videos afterwards. There probably has to be a quite large team of people doing this, alongside the algorithms, and these teams would probably be sitting around not doing very much most of the time and then working intensively when events like Christchurch occurs.

It's a difficult problem to solve.