Response To Facebook Video Of Murder Is The Call For An Actual 'Godwin's Law'

from the that-name-is-taken dept

Anyone familiar with internet culture will be familiar with Godwin’s law. It goes roughly something like this: the longer a discussion goes on on the internet, the higher the probability that a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis will be made. This axiom enjoys lofty status on the internet — so often have we seen its claim played out in threads and discussions.

Godwin’s Law is, of course, not a real law. But there may soon be a real Godwin’s Law on the books, stemming from the murder of Robert Godwin Sr. and the subsequent video upload to Facebook of the murder.

Erie Feinberg, heads a company called GIPEC, specializing in deep Internet searches looking for criminals or terrorists. He is now calling for new federal regulations so what happened in Godwin’s case doesn’t happen again.

“I think it starts in Cleveland, in Ohio right now, where everybody calls their congressman and their senator,” Feinberg told the FOX 8 I-Team. He wants new limits on websites posting horrific crimes. “They created this world, and it’s not an excuse to say, ‘You can’t expect us to police every bit of content post and video.’ Well, you created this. You should secure it.”

Feinberg isn’t the first person to stamp his or her feet in the wake of Robert Godwin’s murder with calls for social media sites to do something, anything, to keep this type of content from ever being shared on the computer screens of the masses. What’s frustrating about these types of screeds is how clear it is, at times even to the person screeding, that there is little if anything that can be done by companies like Facebook beyond what they do already to stop any of this. The problem is how tantalizing it is to those grieving, as well as to those of us viewing what happened to Godwin from afar, to try to place blame on a site like Facebook for ever having shown us this type of terrible content. You can hear it in Feinberg’s words: “You created this. You should secure it.” (And let’s not even bother digging into the more cynical take that this kind of “do something!” regulation might benefit Feinberg’s own company… )

Facebook already works quite hard to take down violent videos of this kind from its pages. However, there is little it can do to prevent the content from being uploaded initially. The site relies on users to report when images and videos ought to be taken down. The takedowns can only happen after the upload. The fundamental question is: do we want a world where user videos can be uploaded to Facebook? If we do, we need to understand the collateral content that may come with that. No Godwin’s Law that would pass constitutional muster is going to solve the problem. And no amount of fist-shaking at this tragedy is going to make Facebook magically able to solve it either.

The calls for something to be done are calls based on emotion. Understandable emotion. You can, again, hear it in Feinberg’s words as he pushes for a real-life Godwin’s Law.

“There’s gotta be some good or some positives out of this heinous act,” Feinberg said.

No, there doesn’t. This isn’t a movie. Bad things happen and there isn’t always something that can, or should, be done about it. Certainly, laying blame at the feet of Facebook because a single user uploaded a murder video is wholly inappropriate.

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Comments on “Response To Facebook Video Of Murder Is The Call For An Actual 'Godwin's Law'”

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aethercowboy (profile) says:

Worth noting is that (a) Fox 8’s wonderful fact checker typoed his name. He’s actually Eric. (b) GIPEC stands for “Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center”, and (c) this quote from the article is the most troubling to me: “Feinberg said he’d like to see the Internet regulated in a way similar to what you see for broadcast TV.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Feinberg said he’d like to see the Internet regulated in a way similar to what you see for broadcast TV.”

So Mr. Feinburg wants to create a law for Mr. Godwin where some agency will act like Nazis removing content at the direction of some Hitler like dictator?

With a Jewish name like Feinberg one would think he’d be anti-Nazi…

Anonymous Coward says:

They are barking up the wrong tree. It is NOT facebooks job to regulate what people post. If they don’t post it to face book they will post it to another website, that is NOT regulated by American laws.. Seriously, What will happen when they ban the uploads of these types of videos? They will end up banning Movies/trailers that have this type of content! Even if they ban this in the us side of facebook, There are plenty of other video sites on the internet that are NOT under the control of the US censorship division. If Face book wants to stand up and censor their site, I am sure that will be the end of facebook, As the users will swarm to other sites..

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ah, but with the links to the concept of terrorism inherent to posting videos of violent murders, it would be rather easy for the US to deal with people posting videos that violate US laws on foreign servers.

The location of the server is known and can be plotted down to the inch with GPS. Both Predator drones (with Hellfire missiles) and Tomahawk cruise missiles can be GPS-guided.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The one who makes the claim is the one that has the burden of proof on it. You made a claim, I was asking for the evidence supporting it.

Based upon the source, yes, it looks like he does stand to handsomely profit if he manages to get his disastrously stupid idea into law, meaning his motives might not necessarily be ‘just’ a stupid knee-jerk level response.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Not entirely true, but all the more wrong because of it

However, there is little it can do to prevent the content from being uploaded initially.

There is one thing that could be done. It would completely and utterly destroy services that revolve around user submitted content, but it is a ‘something’ that could be done:

Pre-screen all submissions before allowing them to be posted. The only way for user submitted content to be posted is if it’s vetting beforehand.

To say this would be disastrous to service that host user submitted content is an understatement of the level of ‘The surface of the sun is kinda toasty’. Very few sites would be willing and able to deal with such a requirement, and even those that could would see a massive decrease in use of the services and the content they could show.

The idea he’s proposing isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerously stupid, and would cause massive harm to the spread of ideas and creativity that the internet allows.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Justice for Godwin

We want justice for Godwin, and we have it.

– The murderer killed someone
– He then posted the video
– Those who saw it, a jury of his peers, found him guilty
– Rather than cost society a lot of money to try him, and perhaps acquit him on an insanity defense, he took his life and cost society nothing more than a manhunt.

To the pro death-penalty folks, imagine how many years this would have played out in [mandatory] appeal after appeal after appeal at family grief expense (and taxpayer expense).

To the anti death-penalty folks, not to worry, God took care of this one for you, and you don’t get to question God’s will.

Wow, can you imagine how much better our society would be if everyone that committed a murder (or rape, or whatever violent crime) would then kill themselves? That’s 0% recidivism with 0% cost.


That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“There’s gotta be some good or some positives out of this heinous act,” Feinberg said.

And getting myself a bunch of good free press. If I play my cards right I can parlay it into contracts for my company to “fix” the problem.

Knee-jerk reactions to tragedies ALWAYS lead to bad law.
When might we learn that demands to fix it now now now now now, do not actually make the problem better. That hoping we’ll create the Avengers to fly around the world stopping all of the bad with this law, isn’t actually possible.

The problem isn’t FB.
The problem isn’t cell phones.
The problem isn’t cell networks.
The problem isn’t anything we want to blame.

Society is the problem.
Mental health issues are a stigma suffered in the dark.
We make sure old men can get hardons, but how much infrastructure do we have for mental health?
It isn’t a family problem, it is a societal problem.
People who need serious help get none, because calling the police for help more often than not results in the death of the person in need.
There are people who think depression and other serious mental health issues can just be shaken off if you wanted to.
Insurance pays more for a 5 minute visit where they put you on a pill, than several sessions trying to actually solve the problem.

Stop blaming the tech, start blaming yourselves.
Not everyone has the life you have, the support you have and you refuse to look outside your personal bubble.

A man who appears to have been in the middle of a mental health crisis murdered someone. But we are supposed to hold FB responsible??

Dave Cortright (profile) says:

The analogy expose the insanity

A couple of months ago, a drunk driver plowed a Chevy Silverado pickup truck through a crowd in New Orleans injuring 28 people. Now take a look at the media coverage of that. It was always “his vehicle” or “gray pickup truck”. No press reported that it was a Chevy Silverado, unless they were quoting an eyewitness. Why is that? And why isn’t Chevy not doing more to prevent people who use their products from doing grave harm to others?

If this story were treated the same way, a video of a murder would have been published on an unnamed “internet social networking web site”. And the stories would focus on the personal responsibility of the driver.

Chuck says:

"You created this."

“You created this.” What exactly did facebook create?

Did they create the murderer? Nope. We can blame his parents, his school, other various influences on his character, but Facebook has never “created” a human being in ANY sense of the word.

Did they create the gun he used? Nope. I haven’t watched the video, but whether we blame the manufacturer or the person who sold it to him, or even whoever he borrowed/stole/etc it from for not properly securing it, Facebook had nothing to do with the “creation” of the murder weapon.

Did they create the victim? Obviously not. Not even going to elaborate here, but no, they didn’t.

So what exactly did facebook create? They created a web site where people can upload things. Sometimes that’s a live feed of baby eagles. Sometimes it’s someone’s wedding. Sometimes it’s someone’s birthday party. And ONE SINGLE F**KING TIME someone has abused it to post a murder.

So what exactly did facebook create? A platform. Forcing facebook to do literally anything to fix this is tantamount to forcing Home Depot to run background checks before you can buy a hammer because, yanno, one time in several million, one of those hammers is used to kill someone, instead of building houses (i.e. what it’s used for the vast majority of the time and what it was designed to do.) I mean, maybe we should hold Craftsman tools responsible the next time someone gets beat over the head with a pipe wrench, right?

No? Well this request is EQUALLY STUPID.

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