By Ila Ananya
On 25th April, three men in Sweden were jailed for up to two-and-a-half years, for raping a woman and broadcasting it on Facebook Live earlier this year. Two of the men were convicted of rape, while the third man received a six-month sentence for failing to report the crime and broadcasting it instead.
Back when the news broke, it was viewers of the live Facebook video who alerted the police. When they were arrested, the men denied the charges, claiming that the woman had given them her consent. Thankfully, the court said ruled that the woman had been intoxicated and drugged. “It is not possible for a person in that situation to give consent. They should therefore be held accountable for rape,” said Nils Palbrant, the Chairman of Uppsala District Court.
This horrifying case in Sweden has further called for a focus on how complicated the ethics and policy issues of Facebook live feeds are, and reminds us of another similar gang-rape case in Chicago in January this year, when an 18-year-old was assaulted by four men. This was followed by another such horrifying case in February this year, when teenage boys in Chicago live-streamed the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. More than 40 people watched this, and nobody reported the assault.
Just yesterday, there was also a terrifying case of a Thai man filming himself murdering his 11-month-old daughter in a Facebook live video, before committing suicide. More than 2,50,000 Facebook users reportedly watched the video that remained online for 24 hours, until it was taken down. This came after Facebook announcing last week that it was reviewing its policy on such footage after a man in Ohio was shot and killed, and the video remained available on Facebook for two hours. Closer home, there have also been cases just in April this year of a Mumbai student livestreaming his suicide on Facebook, and a 32-year-old man from Sonepat doing the same.
It’s in some ways similar to how the rape videos were for sale in Uttar Pradesh—there is the idea of an audience that exists and is willing to watch these videos almost voyeuristically that needs to be looked into. Seeing how things are going, it seems like viewing such a live video and not reporting it might become a crime in itself.