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Broadcasting Terror from New Zealand to Canada

Broadcasting Terror from New Zealand to Canada

Written by
George Carothers
March 15th, 2019

George Carothers discusses how the recent Christchurch massacre was streamed by some of Canada’s largest broadcasters.

Broadcasting Terror from New Zealand to Canada

In a disturbing, distressing development, the Christchurch massacre was streamed by some of Canada’s largest broadcasters. Not CTV. Not CBC. I’m talking about platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Facebook indulged the killer by bringing the horror of his rampage to millions of people in real-time. Other platforms were soon distributing the footage.

As we know all too well in this scandal-ridden era, what goes up on the Internet never comes back down. The video from the live broadcast of the attack has since been shared and removed, then re-uploaded and shared countless more times. YouTube and Facebook seem to be losing an epic game of whack-a-mole, but while they talk about their desire to rid their platforms of such content, they continue to make billions off the advertising this content generates.

Can you imagine seeing this footage being broadcast live by CBC? Imagine the public outrage. Imagine the editorial firings. Imagine the public inquiry.

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But the CBC would never broadcast a mass murder in progress. Nor would any other Canadian broadcaster of integrity. This is because responsible media organizations are staffed with professional journalists who are subject to editorial oversight. The media companies that these people work for are also legally liable for everything they publish. That’s because Canadians decided many years ago that media companies must be responsible participants in our democracy. Recognizing the media’s potential to influence politics and society, Canadians decided that these companies should be subject to strict rules. And in our democracy, Canadians make those rules.

Enter the platforms.

Companies like Facebook, Google and YouTube operate outside the purview of many of our laws and regulations. Why? Because we let them. Indeed, the Canadian government appears content to leave them to regulate themselves. But at what cost? What is the cost to Canadian society? To decency? To democracy?

Facebook indulged the killer by bringing the horror of his rampage to millions of people in real-time.

Facebook and YouTube have a lot to answer for.

  1. How much advertising revenue have Facebook and YouTube generated from the views, clicks and shares of the videos from the Christchurch massacre?
  2. How many Canadian businesses consented to having their advertisements shown in proximity to an unedited video of a mass murder?
  3. Where can those advertisers go to claim their refunds, and will Facebook and YouTube compensate these companies for damaging their brands by associating them with hate crime?

These questions should be outlandish. Sadly they’re very germane. And that’s before we get in to the question of responsibility for publishing, promoting, and recommending this video to the public. Publishing and promoting hate speech is a crime. Why should Facebook and YouTube be above the law?

This is how our relationship with Big Tech plays out in real life. This is what we get when we let Facebook’s “Community Standards team” govern and censor the Internet. This is what we get when our government chooses to prioritize Silicon Valley billionaires over Canadian decency and democracy, all in the hope of winning a few dollars of foreign investment. They’re dangling a carrot, and we’re dancing for our dinner.

The live broadcast of the events in Christchurch makes a powerful case for ending our hands-off, do as you like approach to the monopolies of Silicon Valley. Their quest for profit and control does not respect democracy, privacy, or freedom of speech.

It’s time to hold these platforms responsible for the content they publish and broadcast, just as we do with every other Canadian media company. Facebook and YouTube shouldn’t get to dictate the terms and conditions of our democracy. As Canadians, we get to choose.

In this article
A journalism crisis is threatening Canadian democracy.