Passenger trolled for live-streaming flight experience

SAN FRANCISCO • The first reaction of Southwest Airlines passenger Marty Martinez when an engine exploded on the plane on Tuesday was to live-stream what he feared might be his last minutes of life.

It was possibly the first time someone who thought he was going to die in a plane crash live-streamed the experience.

Mr Martinez lived. One passenger, bank executive Jennifer Riordan, was killed when she was partially pulled through a shattered plane window.

However, while Mr Martinez, who runs a Dallas marketing agency, said on Wednesday that he wanted to communicate with loved ones, many social media users attacked him in expletive-laced postings, with one saying he should have been the one who died. "Trying to contact loved ones is one thing, but to morbidly video and take pictures to post publicly is completely disgusting. Evidently, the wrong person was taken from that flight," Facebook user Dennis Miller said in a post.

Many social media users defended Mr Martinez's use of Facebook Live, but some said he violated passengers' privacy and sought cheap fame. Others said he was selfish to focus on messaging instead of helping the critically injured passenger a few rows away.

"You represent the worst of social media," Mr Tom Burke said on Facebook.

The event illustrates thorny issues facing platforms such as Google's YouTube, Twitter's Periscope and Facebook - already under pressure over privacy and news curating - over hosting live-streaming material.

Mr Martinez explained on Wednesday why he opened his laptop and fumbled for his credit card to pay US$8 (S$10.50) for Wi-Fi while other passengers were grabbing oxygen masks.

"All I could think of in that moment was, I need to communicate with my loved ones," he said on ABC television. "I thought, 'These are my last few moments on earth and I want people to know what happened.'"

Social media watchers said Mr Martinez's actions might be morally offensive to some but did not appear to violate Facebook's "community standards", which include bans on certain graphic or violent content, or that which is deemed disrespectful.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2018, with the headline 'Passenger trolled for live-streaming flight experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe