Christchurch Massacre Was Watched Nearly 200 Times When Broadcast Live, But No Users Reported It: Facebook

Facebook has said that no users reported the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting footage as it was being broadcast live last Friday, despite it being viewed up to 200 times.

Chris Sonderby, Facebook's deputy general counsel, said in a statement that the attacker's video was viewed about 4,000 times in total before being removed from the website.

He said the first user complaint on the original video came in 29 minutes after the start of the video, which showed a graphic portion of the mosque attacks in real time. The report was received 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended, Sonderby said.

According to Facebook, company moderators removed about 1.5 million videos of the attack globally. More than 1.2 million of those videos were blocked at upload and never seen.

The mass shootings took place at two mosques in Christchurch, leaving 50 people dead and another 50 injured. An Australian citizen, described as being in his late 20s, was charged with murder. The suspect, one of three individuals arrested, was identified as Brenton Tarrant, 28.

Footage from the 17-minute live stream spread quickly on social media. Google, Facebook and Twitter rushed, and initially failed, to stop the spread of videos and images of the massacre. The attack was tailored for a contemporary audience—with a creed posted to a message board called 8chan containing references to popular memes and underground internet culture.

Sonderby said Monday that Facebook took action by designating the shootings as "terrorist attacks." That meant any "praise, support and representation" of the events was not permitted on the platform. Tarrant's personal accounts, including on Instagram, were swiftly removed.

He said the back-end information linked to the original Facebook Live broadcast was identified in a way that meant any future uploads of the content could be detected and automatically removed.

Sonderby said challenges remained, including how to scrub screen recordings of the footage, so Facebook also used "additional detection systems, including the use of audio technology."

The deputy general counsel's statement added, "Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by the horrific terrorist attacks in Christchurch.

It went on: "We remain shocked and saddened by this tragedy and are committed to working with leaders in New Zealand, other governments, and across the technology industry to help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism. We continue to work around the clock to prevent this content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people."