Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) — whose district includes a vast swath of the West Side — staged a press conference on April 21 outside of Facebook’s Chicago headquarters in the West Loop.
Boykin — along with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pfleger, and a small group of experts in the fields of education, medicine, law enforcement and social services — called for the social media giant to institute a 30-day moratorium on its live-streaming service so that the company could consider reforming the technology.
The press conference comes in the wake of the killing of Robert Godwin, a Cleveland man who was shot to death on Easter Sunday by Steve Stephens, who apparently targeted Godwin randomly. Stevens later posted Godwin’s murder on Facebook before committing suicide on April 18.
“The death of Mr. Godwin, the crucifixion of Mr. Godwin on Resurrection Sunday, stayed on Facebook for more than two hours,” said Boykin at the April 21 press conference. “That should never happen. Not in America.”
Boykin and others who spoke at the press conference referenced other acts of violence that have been posted to Facebook.
“There must be a floor of decency beneath which we are unwilling to go,” Boykin said. “The live-streaming of rapes, murders, suicides and vicious assaults is that floor that we must never go beneath.”
Boykin said that he sent a letter to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, asking the billionaire to implement the 30-day moratorium and to put an emergency button in place to notify Facebook administrators that “a vile video has been posted.”
The commissioner also asked for the company to implement a measure that would prevent those videos from being shared with third parties other than law enforcement.
“We’re calling on Facebook to have corporate responsibility,” said Pfleger. “I appreciate when Facebook puts out statements of sympathy when somebody’s been raped or shot or killed on Facebook Live. But sympathy is not good enough. We need corporate action and corporate responsibility.”
Pfleger argued that Facebook should be as vigilant with protecting human life as it is with protecting property rights.
“I can’t even tell you how much violence in the neighborhoods, in my neighborhood, that is sparked and birthed on social media,” Pfleger said.
“I don’t quite understand. I do Facebook Live and behind me Stevie Wonder’s song is playing. They will immediately shut it down because I don’t have property rights to play that song in the background of my Facebook Live.
“If we have intellectual rights and copyright protections, why would we not have human life protection? So when 14- and 15-year-olds are on Facebook and Facebook Live wielding guns around, which is illegal, why is that not immediately shut down?”
Jackson said that he called Facebook’s California office earlier this month but has not yet gotten a response from the company. Boykin said that Zuckerberg hasn’t responded yet to his letter.
Jackson nonetheless called for an emergency meeting with Facebook leadership to try to resolve some of the problems with its live-streaming service.
Facebook officials could not be reached for comment