Facebook’s live streaming service started, by admission of the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, as a tool to connect people in a “more personal way”.
But during 2016 it inevitably grew to become the most innovative and immediate form of citizen journalism, used by ordinary people to record and share the most important stories of the year.
News organisations, including Mashable, also utilised Facebook Live videos to report on protests, demonstrations and other newsy events, which allows them to put viewers in the middle of a often harrowing scene.
This shift in the point of view also led to a change in the conversation, with a whole set of ethical questions over the opportunity of representation.
That was particularly self-evident in police shootings videos, but also in what some people perceived as propaganda-like representation of the Iraqi army assault on Mosul.
The Guardian summarises the questions social media companies face:
Does increasing the visibility of violence lead to justice for the victims of violence? Does the video itself constitute a form of redress? Does consuming such imagery sensitize and politicize viewers? Or does it exhaust us or worse, encourage a perverse kind of voyeurism?
In short, should these kind of videos be produced, watched and circulated?
Here is a list of the most significant news events that were streamed live on Facebook.
Antonio Perkins shooting
In June, a 28-year-old Chicago man, Antonio Perkins, was hanging out on the sidewalk in a Chicago neighbourhood, broadcasting on Facebook Live.
Suddenly, a series of shots rings out and the phone falls to the grass. Bits of red can be spotted on the green blades. Then the screams come:”Oh my God!””Tony!” “Call the police!” “He’s bleeding out his month and nose right now!”
The 28-year-old was shot in the neck and head about six minutes into his Facebook Live broadcast, according to the
He was later pronounced dead on the spot. His initial Facebook Live broadcast was shared more than a million times, according to news reports.
Philando Castile shooting
The aftermath of the shooting death of Philando Castle was streamed live from Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Recorded and shared by Castile’s fiance, Diamond Reynolds, the video showed Castile bleeding through his white T-shirt and a police officer with his gun still drawn.
“Stay with me,” Reynolds says, but the man does not appear to be responsive.
Throughout the video, Reynolds can be heard detailing the situation. She explains that the car had been pulled over due to a broken taillight.
When the officer approached, she said the man told the officer he had a gun and that he was reaching to take out his wallet.
“He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm,” the woman says. “Please don’t tell me he’s dead. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
Minutes later she is ordered from the car.
The woman continued to broadcast and the video shows officers with guns drawn. An officer farther back can be seen holding a young child. In the video, the woman asks if they have her daughter.Later in the video, the distressed woman says she has been handcuffed. “It’s OK mommy,” a child can be heard saying. “It’s OK, I’m right here with you.”
The video was taken down for around an hour, but was later reposted.
“It was temporarily down due to a technical glitch,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. “We’re very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible,” she said. “It was … restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”
Reynolds’ video was then shared by Black Lives Matter activists.
Attack on Dallas police
Michael Kevin Bautista hid behind a tree and broadcasted live dramatic scenes from the attack on law enforcement in Dallas, which left five police officers dead.
“Theyre shooting right now and theres an officer down. Its coming from the right over there,” he says, aspolicemen can be seen ducking behind their patrol cars while shots are fired around them. “Theyre moving in on somebody. I think they might have got somebody.” His video has had more than 3 million views.
Later, Bautista posted another video in which he described how police stormed some buildings to look for the shooter.
In an interview with Sky News, Bautista said:
“I was across the street over by the garage; I was walking with some other people I thought shots were coming from inside the garage but they were coming from down the streets.”
“Iwalked in front of the line of fire, and then I made it across the street and into the parking lot and that’s when I saw a downed officer so I started to put that on my Facebook Live. I wanted everybody to know what’s going on.”
“It’s been very crazy tonight. It feels like a war zone,” he said.
As Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a military operation to retake the city of Mosul from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), broadcasters started to stream the battle live on Facebook in perhaps a first for wartime media coverage.
The operation, announced in October by Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi on state TV, aims to free Iraq’s second largest city and will be backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.It’s still ongoing.
Just like any other Facebook lives, users were able to comment or leave an emoticon on the feed.Some people were baffled by the notion that live streaming war on social media could become “entertainment” for a commercial purpose.
This comment by journalist Harriet Salem was retweeted more than 4,000 times:
Channel 4, one of the news outlets that broadcasted the battle live, defended its decision.
On live streaming the Mosul footage, we wanted to bring the one of the most significant stories of our time to our viewers as it happened,”Jon Laurence, digital editor of Channel 4 News, told the Guardian.
“Given the nature of conflict we are cautious and vigilant that the material is appropriate at all times and have measures in place to stop the stream when necessary.”
After a police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, fatally shot a black man named Keith Lamont Scott, a woman who identified herself as his daughter got to the site of the shooting and started recording on Facebook Live.
Officers were searching the area for a man with an outstanding warrant though the man was not Scott when they saw him stepping out of his vehicle carrying a gun.
Moments later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer Brentley Vinson fatally shot him.
In the live video, Scott’s daughter Lyric walks around police yellow tape as she slowly realises her dad wasn’t coming back. The morning after the shooting, her video had around 690,000 views.
That Facebook Live certainly contributed to spreading the name of Keith Scott around the country and played a huge part in the mass protests that followed in Charlotte.
Following the shooting, black people in Charlotte pulled out their phones and started telling the story themselves.
A man in the area recorded as residents gathered in the area, and kept recording as night fell and the gathering turned into a protest that took over part of a highway.
The following morning, that livestream had around 1.9 million views.
One of those demonstrators, Jaleesa Pauling, told Mashable at the time:
“I went live on Facebook because I wanted people to see. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes.”