Facebook and Twitter Face Backlash After Auto-Play Function Forced Many to Witness Yesterday’s Murders

Yesterday, one of the downfalls of modern technology was made glaringly apparent in a very real and disturbing way.

By now, we’ve all heard about the tragic murder of a Virginia TV reporter and her cameraman as they were in the middle of a live broadcast yesterday morning.

Some may have even seen it happen live or shortly after the fact.

That’s because, while the shooting was caught on live television, the gunman posted a first-hand video of the murders to Twitter and Facebook immediately following. And if the video showed up on your newsfeed, it automatically played, forcing people near and far to witness the senseless act of violence.

As you likely know, both Twitter and Facebook automatically play videos when they appear in users’ feeds, subjecting any of Vester Lee Flanagan’s (who also went by Bryce Williams) followers to the video once they viewed their feed.

Naturally, Twitter and Facebook were quick to react and removed Flanagan’s profile. Twitter did so within eight minutes. But the problem, of course, is that the online world moves quicker than that.

Within minutes, multiple news organizations and users reposted the video clips on their social media accounts. This meant that the reposted videos showed up in more user feeds and, again, automatically played, forcing more users to witness the shooting.

Many people, of course, couldn’t bear watching and stopped the video once they knew its contents. But others, in the same way we can’t turn away from a car wreck, watched the whole thing.

Now, both Twitter and Facebook are facing a growing backlash – and users are taking to the social media sites to vocalize their thoughts and warn others. The automatic video play, they say, should be opt-in only as opposed to opt-out. Not only do they not want to be exposed to graphic and disturbing content, autoplay videos consume user’s mobile data, can slow down smartphones, and consume battery life.

At the same time, both social media sites are being praised by many for their quick reaction time, which ultimately stopped the video from being viewed by a larger audience.