Facebook Promises to Improve Review Process After Steve Stephens Videos

Steve Stephens.

Steve Stephens. (Facebook)

After the video that appears to show Steve ‘Stevie Steve’ Stephens killing Robert Godwin stayed up on Facebook without being reported for over 90 minutes, the social network vowed to improve its review process. On Sunday, the Cleveland man posted previously-recorded videos announcing his plans to murder and the murder itself. He then used Facebook Live to confess to the murder and later became known as the “Facebook Killer.”

In a statement on Monday, Facebook went public with its response to the shocking sequence of events. Here’s the sequence from Facebook’s statement:

11:09AM PDT: First video, of intent to murder, uploaded. Not reported to Facebook.
11:11AM PDT: Second video, of shooting, uploaded.
11:22AM PDT: Suspect confesses to murder while using Live, is live for 5 minutes.
11:27AM PDT: Live ends, and Live video is first reported shortly after.
12:59PM PDT: Video of shooting is first reported.
1:22PM PDT: Suspect’s account disabled; all videos no longer visible to public.

Facebook said that it did not receive a report from the Facebook community about Stephens’ video showing the actual murder until 12:59 p.m. PDT. It never received a report on the first video, in which he said he would kill someone. At 1:22 p.m. PDT, Stephens’ Facebook account was disabled, making his videos no longer available to the general public.

“As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible,” Justin Osofsky, Facebook VP of Global Operations, said in a statement. “In this case, we did not receive a report about the first video, and we only received a report about the second video — containing the shooting — more than an hour and 45 minutes after it was posted. We received reports about the third video, containing the man’s live confession, only after it had ended.”

Osofsky wrote that even through they did disable Stephens’ account two hours after they received a report, “we know we need to do better.”

Osofsky wrote:

In addition to improving our reporting flows, we are constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment. Artificial intelligence, for example, plays an important part in this work, helping us prevent the videos from being reshared in their entirety. (People are still able to share portions of the videos in order to condemn them or for public awareness, as many news outlets are doing in reporting the story online and on television). We are also working on improving our review processes. Currently, thousands of people around the world review the millions of items that are reported to us every week in more than 40 languages. We prioritize reports with serious safety implications for our community, and are working on making that review process go even faster.

Prior to this more detailed post, a Facebook spokesperson sent the following statement to Fox Business:

This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.

Currently, the best way to report a post as offensive content is to simply click the drop-down button on the top, right-hand side of the post. Then, a pop-up will appear, asking you “What’s going on?” The options are “It’s annoying or not interesting,” “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook” and “It’s spam.”

Stephens’ videos were not the first time videos of crimes or other shocking acts were posted on Facebook since it launched Facebook Live in January 2016. For example, the shooting of Philando Castille by a police officer was live streamed on the social network last summer. People have also posted videos of suicides and shootings using the Facebook Live service.

The future of Facebook Live will likely be a topic of discussion when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, on Tuesday.

Stephens is still on the run and police say he is armed and dangerous. Authorities are now offering a $50,000 reward for information on Stephens’ location.

The victim, Robert Godwin, was a 74-year-old man and the father to 10 children and grandfather to 14 children. A GoFundMe account has been started to raise money to help his family.