A number of recent events have proven that live video of breaking news can be incredibly important for understanding such situations, and in many cases that video is being streamed on Facebook by those involved, whether it’s a shooting in Louisiana or the aftermath of a protest in Dallas.
Given that, the fact that Facebook (FB, +0.89%) will not only remove videos in some cases but also deactivate a user’s account at the request of police also raises a host of important questions. What responsibility, if any, does the network have as a news outlet when it makes such decisions?
The deactivation occurred earlier this week during an incident in Baltimore County, MD. While in a standoff with police in her apartment, 23-year-old Korryn Gaines was posting video on Facebook and interacting with followers on both Facebook and Instagram.
At some point, the police asked Facebook to shut down the woman’s social-media accounts, and the company complied. Gaines was later shot and killed after she pointed a gun in the direction of the officers, according to statements made at a news conference in Baltimore on Tuesday.
Police said they were trying to serve an arrest warrant on Gaines on charges related to a routine traffic stop in March, including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Gaines’s five-year-old son was wounded.
“We did in fact reach out to social media authorities to deactivate her account, to take it offline, if you will,” Baltimore County police chief James Johnson said at the press conference. “Why? In order to preserve the integrity of the negotiation process with her and for the safety of our personnel [and] her child.”
Johnson said that not only was Gaines posting video of the operation as it unfolded, but her followers on both Facebook and Instagram were also “encouraging her not to comply” with police requests that she surrender peacefully. Facebook deactivated the account about an hour after being asked to do so.