PARIS (AFP) - French prosecutors launched an investigation on Wednesday after a 19-year-old woman committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a suburban train near Paris and streamed the act live on Periscope.
The suicide, which took place on Tuesday at a station in Egly to the south of Paris, is the latest controversy to hit the Twitter-owned streaming service, which has recently seen rapes and assaults shown live.
The unnamed French woman “sent a text to one of her friends several minutes before her death to make them aware of her intentions,” said prosecutor Eric Lallement.
“She also made statements to Internet users via the Periscope application to explain her act.”
A judicial source said the victim “spoke of a rape and named the aggressor” during the filming, adding that the claims were being treated with caution at this stage.
Footage of the woman’s actual death was removed by Periscope but some of the video leading up to the suicide was republished by users, and was still available on YouTube.
The woman is seen on a couch, smoking a cigarette, saying the video is “not designed to create a buzz... but to make people react, to open their minds, and nothing else”.
The video then cuts to a black screen, and what appear to be the voices of emergency personnel can be faintly heard. Messages of concern from Periscope users are seen flashing up on the screen.
Periscope is a smartphone application that allows users to stream live video via their Twitter account. The video usually remains accessible for 24 hours.
Police said they were informed by someone watching the stream.
“We were alerted around 4.30pm by a Periscope user who was connected with the victim and told us that she was not well,” a police source said.
Twitter, which bought Periscope in 2015, said it did not comment on individual accounts.
Disturbing incidents have become increasingly common on live-streaming services.
An 18-year-old woman appeared in court in the US state of Ohio last month accused of filming the rape of her 17-year-old friend by a 29-year-old man and live-streaming it on Periscope.
Marina Lonina “got caught up in the likes” that Periscope users gave the video, her lawyer told the court.
Buzzfeed reported on an apparent rape in March, when a young man was filmed by two friends having sex with a woman in London and the footage was streamed live on Periscope.
A mass brawl between teenage gangs at a London shopping centre was also live-streamed in April.
Twitter and other social media companies have limited control over what users publish via their services, and rely on the public to flag illegal or disturbing content.
An investigation has been opened into the precise circumstances of Tuesday’s suicide in Paris.
“Once the first results of the analysis of the victim’s mobile telephone and the images diffused by Periscope are known, the investigators will attempt to specify the motivations for her act, and if necessary, to enlarge the investigation,” Lallement said in a statement.