What to do if you see a crime on Facebook Live

Dozens of people watched as 15-year-old girl in Chicago was gang-raped on Facebook Live, yet no one called the police.

The video, which has since been removed, is the second story to make headlines out of Chicago about a crime taking place on the social media live streaming service. In January, police charged four people for hate crimes after they allegedly tied up, beat and tortured a special needs student while a Facebook Live audience watched.

As Live grows in popularity along with the potential for harmful uses of the tool, police say it is important for users to know what to do if you see a crime or other dangerous activity on Facebook Live.

We spoke with the Chicago Police Department, which offered some tips for what to do if you see something bad happening on social media.

Call 911

If someone is in danger or a crime is being committed, call the police immediately. If you can tell where the video is taking place, it's even more crucial that you reach out to police so they can respond.

Look for descriptive details

Even if you don't know where it is happening, providing key details about what you see can help save law enforcement time in tracking down the crime. Can you see a street sign or unique characteristic of a person in the video? Tell police whose Live video it is, what you're seeing and any information you may have about the people in the video.

Report the post to Facebook

Users can flag videos for Facebook in order to bring harmful behavior to the company's attention. The company says it has a system in place to review questionable content around the clock. Facebook can then try to get in contact with police accordingly.

Facebook on Tuesday declined to respond to specific questions about the incident, including whether the alleged assault was reported by users.

“Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook," the company said in a statement. "We take our responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and will remove videos that depict sexual assault and are shared to glorify violence.”

Record the video with your phone

The person who is going live has the ability to end the stream and delete the video at any point. Capturing your own video of the crime can help police if the person removes the stream. Taking a screenshot on your computer or phone of the live video and the person's profile can also help, Chicago Police said.

Don't share the video

Further publicizing harmful content may encourage the person to continue committing the crime or harming others. While you may think that sharing can help spread awareness, it may also put victims in more danger. The person streaming the video may be seeking attention.

Don't contact the person if they're committing a crime

Chicago Police said they want to make sure all evidence is preserved properly. Reaching out to the person could prompt them to delete the video.

What if someone is not committing a crime, but is doing something else that's concerning?

The behavior you see on Live may not warrant a response from police but should still be addressed. You can help a person being cyberbullied or expressing suicidal thoughts by acting quickly.

Again, report it to Facebook

Facebook has strict guidelines around cyber bullying and it removes "content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them," according to its Community Standards webpage.

The website has also worked to better its response to prevent suicides on Live. If a video is flagged, Facebook can send a message to the user that directs them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other support organizations.

Tell a friend or family member

You may have friends on Facebook that you're no longer close to or haven't spoken with in years. If you see one them being cyberbullied or expressing suicidal thoughts, it can help to tell someone you know is their close friend or relative. The friend or family may have missed the live stream and don't know that the person is going through hardship.

Telling someone can be the first step to getting a person help.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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