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.