Thai police to act on violent content after Facebook murder

Ms Jiranuch Trirat, mother of the 11-month-old girl whose murder by her father was broadcast on Facebook, crying as she hugged her daughter's body at a hospital in Phuketon Tuesday. Netizens were outraged that the authorities in Thailand took so long
Ms Jiranuch Trirat, mother of the 11-month-old girl whose murder by her father was broadcast on Facebook, crying as she hugged her daughter's body at a hospital in Phuketon Tuesday. Netizens were outraged that the authorities in Thailand took so long to get the videos removed.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Police in Thailand yesterday said they will discuss how to speed up taking down "inappropriate online content" after a man broadcast himself killing his 11-month-old daughter in a live video on Facebook.

Two videos, which were available for nearly 24 hours before they were taken down, show Wuttisan Wongtalay hanging his daughter from a building on the southern island of Phuket on Monday before he turned off the camera and killed himself.

"In the future, we will discuss inappropriate online content, whether on Facebook or YouTube or Instagram, and how we can speed up taking this content down," deputy national police spokesman Kissana Phatanacharoen told reporters. It was not immediately clear how the authorities plan to speed things up.

Police had asked the Ministry of Digital Economy to contact Facebook about removing the videos. The ministry, in turn, contacted Facebook on Tuesday and the videos were taken down at around 5pm that day, nearly a day after they had been uploaded.

The videos, which drew nearly half a million views before they were removed, sparked outrage among netizens and prompted questions about how Facebook's reporting system works and how violent content can be flagged faster.

  • Recent postings on Facebook

  • Facebook has seen a number of violent crime videos being posted on its site recently. This disturbing footage includes:

    SWEDEN

    • April 25: A Swedish court on Tuesday sentenced three young men to prison for gang-raping a woman and livestreaming the attack on Facebook. The men were arrested in Uppsala, a town north-west of Stockholm, on Jan 22 after members of a closed Facebook group, which has 60,000 members, saw the attack streamed live and alerted police.


    UNITED STATES

    • On Easter Sunday on April 15, Steve Stephens, 37, shot 74-year-old Robert Godwin in Cleveland, Ohio, and then posted a video of the killing on Facebook. The video of the shooting was only taken down two hours after it was posted. Stephens had posted an earlier video announcing his intent to commit a crime, but that first video was not reported to Facebook. Pursued by police in a nationwide manhunt, Stephens shot and killed himself three days later.

    • In January this year, four people kidnapped and tortured a mentally disabled man in a "racially motivated" attack in Chicago livestreamed on Facebook. In the video - which was watched millions of times - the assailants are heard making derogatory statements against white people and Donald Trump.

    • In July last year, Mr Philando Castile of Minneapolis was shot dead by police during a routine roadside stop. His final moments were filmed and livestreamed by his girlfriend Lavish Reynolds. The footage- which Facebook did not remove until much later - spurred public protests over police violence against black people in the country.

    • In June last year, gang member Antonio Perkins from Chicago was shot and killed in a drive-by attack while he was livestreaming himself drinking with friends on the sidewalk in a residential neighbourhood. The video was watched hundreds of thousands of times within a matter of hours and remains available on social media with a warning massage about its graphic content. At the time, a spokesman for Facebook said the video did not violate company policy, and that a video would be removed if it celebrated or glorified violence.


    INDIA

    • On April 3 this year, Arjun Bharadwaj, 24, committed suicide by jumping from the 19th-storey room of a Mumbai hotel, minutes after streaming a Facebook Live video talking about "steps" leading to suicide. The video went viral - viewed and shared widely by users - but it was not enough to save him.

The case is the latest in a string of violent crimes that have plagued Facebook, despite these making up a small percentage of videos. On Tuesday, a Swedish court jailed three men for the rape of a woman that was broadcast live on Facebook.

Last week, Facebook said it is reviewing how it monitors violent footage and other objectionable material after a posting of a fatal shooting of a man in Cleveland, Ohio, was visible for two hours before being taken down.

Some are asking what took the authorities in Thailand so long to act.

Mr Kissana blamed the delay partly on the time difference between the United States, where Facebook is headquartered, and Thailand. "We did the best we could but there is the time difference issue," he said, without elaborating.

Mr Kissana said Thai police currently have two ways of being alerted about disturbing content: monitoring by a dedicated technology crime suppression division and a tip-off from the public using police hotlines.

A cousin of the baby's mother told Reuters that the family was too traumatised to think about removing the video from Facebook.

"We did not think about removing the video because all we wanted to do at the time was find them (the father and baby) first," said Mr Suksan Buachanit, 29.

The Ministry of Digital Economy said it will look into how it can handle similar cases in future.

"We will take this as a lesson and come up with a solution... but this is not something we can do immediately," said ministry spokesman Somsak Khaosuwan. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Thai police to act on violent content after Facebook murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe