The Ethics of Facebook Live

What legal or ethical obligations, if any, do social media companies like Facebook owe to the public at large? Last year, for example, at least 57 violent or illegal acts—including shootings, burglaries, and beatings—were transmitted via live-video platforms like Facebook Live. According to Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami, Facebook and other technology companies have an ethical obligation to consider the potential harm their services and products might pose: “We need to have a conversation about what the role is of technologies like live-streaming. How much are [services] like Facebook Live encouraging people to commit these acts?” (See this recent report by Arian Campo-Flores in the Wall Street Journal.) But what about the benefits of Facebook Live? Professor Frank’s facile analysis neglects a fundamental problem: what theory of ethics should a firm like Facebook use when defining its duties to its users? Humean consequentialism or Kantian universal duties? After all, services like Facebook Live can also be used to publicize the daily abuse of power by police against minorities, as in the video below.

This entry was posted in Bayesian Reasoning, Ethics, Law, Web/Tech. Bookmark the permalink.

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