After being spotted outside of a McDonald’s in Erie, Pa, accused Facebook Shooter Steve Stephens ended his own life. He was approached by officers outside the McDonald’s after someone called in seeing his Ford Fusion. As officers approached his vehicle, a brief chase ensued. Stephens then stopped his vehicle and shot himself, ending the nationwide manhunt after he filmed killing 74 year old Robert Godwin Sr.
Giving “regular” people a platform in which they can achieve fame or infamy through the ability to have videos go viral and potentially be seen by millions on a international level, is loaded with the potential to be mis-used.
74 year old Robert Godwin Sr. was killed by 37 year old Steve Stephens in Cleveland. Normally I would say allegedly, because of the presumption of innocence for those not convicted of a crime let alone even arrested for it. However, Stephens has not only confessed to his guilt on Facebook live, he filmed his cold callous murder of Mr. Godwin and then uploaded the video to Facebook.
Mr. Godwin and Stephens do not appear to have known each other prior to their random and chance encounter outside a store. Mr. Godwin was holding bags and appeared confused when Stephens asked him to repeat a woman’s name. As Stephens shoots Godwin the camera appears not to capture the actual moment of impact, instead it pans back capturing Godwin in a puddle of blood, with Stephens proclaiming (apparently to the woman he asked Godwin to name) “That motherfucker dead, cause of you.”
Stephens then went on an made another video for Facebook live, in a car where he proclaimed; he committed the actions because of a woman, he had killed 13 other people and he would not stop killing until he was caught. As of this writing, Cleveland Police do not believe that there are any other victims of Steve Stephens. As imagined, the manhunt of him has intensified with the FBI involved in part because it is believed he may have left the state.
Facebook Live and other Internet streaming sites like Snapchat have caught others being shot and even killed while live streaming was being recorded. However, Mr. Godwin’s death appear to be the first intentional murder recorded for the purposes of showing on Facebook. Unfortunately, numerous suicides have been recorded and shown on Internet streaming services like Facebook Live and Snapchat, Instagram and other media companies.
The video was not actually live but uploaded and taken down once Facebook was alerted. It is unknown how many people actually saw the video and were able to share it before it was taken down, but I would guess the number to be in the thousands and once on the Internet… forever on the Internet.
This gross misuse of real time storytelling capabilities is part of the burden that companies like Facebook face with providing platforms that have inherent possibilities of being abused for less than good purposes. The company largely relies on others to flag and report inappropriate videos, but such a system is used as a minimizer and not a fully preventive measure. The reality is as long as you allow people to tell their stories and grant them unfiltered access to do so, we are opening up the possibilities for a repeat of such behavior.
The question then becomes, which clearly Facebook and others have resisted to this point, who censors the videos and actions of others? Everyone loves the concepts behind evolving technology. We just never fully grasp that once you open certain, proverbial, doors, they can never be closed again, and giving people unlimited access to sharing information will have negative consequences that at times outweigh the benefits of everyone having the ability to make podcasts that no one asked for.
Robert Godwin Sr.
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