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Tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video
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Tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video

Tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video
Photo Credit: AP Photos/File
This combination of images shows logos for companies from left, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. These Internet companies and others say they’re working to remove video footage filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shooting that was widely available on social media hours after the horrific attack. (AP Photos/File)

Tech companies scramble to remove New Zealand shooting video

Internet companies scrambled Friday to remove graphic video filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shootings that was widely available on social media for hours after the horrific attack.

Facebook said it took down a livestream of the shootings and removed the shooter's Facebook and Instagram accounts after being alerted by police. At least 49 people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand's third-largest city.

Using what appeared to be a helmet-mounted camera, the gunman livestreamed in horrifying detail 17 minutes of the attack on worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque, where at least 41 people died. Several more worshippers were killed at a second mosque a short time later.

The shooter also left a 74-page manifesto that he posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant, identifying himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white nationalist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

"Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act," Facebook New Zealand spokeswoman Mia Garlick said in a statement.

Facebook is "removing any praise or support for the crime and the shooter or shooters as soon as we're aware," she said. "We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues."

Twitter, YouTube owner Google and Reddit also were working to remove the footage from their sites.

The furor highlights once again the speed at which graphic and disturbing content from a tragedy can spread around the world and how Silicon Valley tech giants are still grappling with how to prevent that from happening.

British tabloid newspapers such as The Daily Mail and The Sun posted screenshots and video snippets on their websites.

One journalist tweeted that several people sent her the video via the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging app.

New Zealand police urged people not to share the footage, and many internet users called for tech companies and news sites to take the material down.

Some people expressed outrage on Twitter that the videos were still circulating hours after the attack.

"Google is actively inciting violence," tweeted British journalist Carole Cadwalladr with a screen grab of search results of the video.

The video's spread underscores the challenge for Facebook even after stepping up efforts to keep inappropriate and violent content off its platform. In 2017 it said it would hire 3,000 people to review videos and other posts, on top of the 4,500 people Facebook already tasks with identifying criminal and other questionable material for removal.

But that's just a drop in the bucket of what is needed to police the social media platform, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of "Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy."

If Facebook wanted to monitor every livestream to prevent disturbing content from making it out in the first place, "they would have to hire millions of people," something it's not willing to do, said Vaidhyanathan, who teaches media studies at the University of Virginia.

"We have certain companies that have built systems that have inadvertently served the cause of violent hatred around the world," Vaidhyanathan said.

Facebook and YouTube were designed to share pictures of babies, puppies and other wholesome things, he said, "but they were expanded at such a scale and built with no safeguards such that they were easy to hijack by the worst elements of humanity."

With billions of users, Facebook and YouTube are "ungovernable" at this point, said Vaidhyanathan, who called Facebook's livestreaming service a "profoundly stupid idea."

In footage that at times resembled scenes from a first-person shooter video game, the mosque shooter was seen spraying terrified worshippers with bullets, sometimes re-firing at people he had already cut down.

He then walked outside, shooting at people on a sidewalk. Children's screams could be heard in the distance as he strode to his car to get another rifle, then returned to the mosque, where at least two dozen people could be seen lying in pools of blood.

He walked back outside, shot a woman, got back in his car, and drove away.

The livestream video was reminiscent of violent first-person shooter video games such as "Counter-Strike" or "Doom" as the gunman went around corners and calmly entered rooms firing at helpless victims. Many shooting games allow players to toggle between close-range and long-range weapons, and the gunman switched from a shotgun to a rifle during the video, reloading as he moved around.

At one point, the shooter even paused to give a shout-out to one of YouTube's top personalities, known as PewDiePie, with tens of millions of followers, who has made jokes criticized as anti-Semitic and posted Nazi imagery in his videos.

"Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie," the gunman said.

The seemingly incongruous reference to the Swedish vlogger known for his video game commentaries as well as his racist references was instantly recognizable to many of his 86 million followers.

The YouTube sensation has been engaged in an online battle over which channel is the most subscribed to, and his followers have taken to posting messages encouraging others to "subscribe to PewDiePie."

PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, said on Twitter he felt "absolutely sickened" that the alleged gunman referred to him during the livestream. "My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected," he said.

The hours it took to take the violent video and manifesto down are "another major black eye" for social media platforms, said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities.

The rampage's broadcast "highlights the urgent need for media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to use more artificial intelligence as well as security teams to spot these events before it's too late," Ives said.

Hours after the shooting, Reddit took down two subreddits known for sharing video and pictures of people being killed or injured —R/WatchPeopleDie and R/Gore — apparently because users were sharing the mosque attack video.

"We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites or glorifies violence will get users and communities banned from Reddit," it said in a statement. "Subreddits that fail to adhere to those site-wide rules will be banned."

Videos and posts that glorify violence are against Facebook's rules, but Facebook has drawn criticism for responding slowly to such items, including video of a slaying in Cleveland and a live-streamed killing of a baby in Thailand. The latter was up for 24 hours before it was removed.

In most cases, such material gets reviewed for possible removal only if users complain. News reports and posts that condemn violence are allowed. This makes for a tricky balancing act for the company. Facebook says it does not want to act as a censor, as videos of violence, such as those documenting police brutality or the horrors of war, can serve an important purpose.

___

Associated Press writers Danica Kirka in London, Nick Perry in Wellington, Mark Baker in Christchurch and Mae Anderson in New York contributed to this report.

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Local News

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Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — His first spring he went toe-to-toe with an incumbent starter. His second year he competed with a 5-star signee ranked as the top quarterback in the country. Now a rising junior with 29 games under his belt as Georgia’s quarterback, Jake Fromm said he is entering his third spring with the Bulldogs with the exact same mentality he went into those other two. “It doesn’t change my preparation at all,” said Fromm, speaking with reporters a couple of hours before the Bulldogs took the field for spring practice. “I’m still technically competing for a job. I’m always going to strive to get better. Whether I’m competing against somebody specifically or competing with my self, I’m always going to strive to be the best I can be.” Fromm has faced the highest degree of competition from the moment he walked onto Georgia’s campus as an early enrollee in January of 2017. He played second fiddle to Jacob Eason that first year and then had to beat out Justin Fields in Year 2 even though he’d led the Bulldogs into the national championship game just three months earlier. Now Eason (Washington) and Fields (Ohio State) play for different teams. And the only others in the quarterback meeting room with him are walkon-turned-JUCO-transfer Stetson Bennett, 4-star signee and early enrollee Dwan Mathis and third-year walkon John Seter. The dynamic is decidedly different, but Fromm said his attitude remains the same. “I’m kind of in the role of a slight mentor,” Fromm said of his role. “I’m going to teach those guys things that I’ve learned from experience. Hopefully I can help those guys out, teach them how to communicate how to learn to learn, as far as the playbook. There’s a lot of things going on, a lot of things being thrown at them. I’m there. I’m a shoulder to lean on sometimes. I can’t wait to see those guys go out there and throw the football around.” There have been several other significant changes on offense. The main one is the absence of offensive coordinator and veteran play-caller Jim Chaney. With Chaney’s departure for a significant pay raise at Tennessee, James Coley has been promoted into the role of sole offensive coordinator. Coley, who had been a coordinator at Miami and Florida State previously, was Fromm’s position coach last year while also serving as c0-coordinator. So while much will stay the same, Fromm expects there will be a lot of different as well. And for Fromm, different is good. “For me, I want to learn new things,” Fromm said. “If we changed up the terminology every single year, I wouldn’t be opposed to that, because I like learning. I want to be the best I can at everything. It offers a different twist. It makes me come in every day hungry and on the edge.” So solid is Fromm’s position on the team that coach Kirby Smart spent all of 10 seconds talking about him during his 25-minute spring practice news conference on Tuesday. “Excited about Jake and the growth he’s been able to give us. He’s been a tremendous help with the other two quarterbacks that are here. Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in Jake in our offensive system and his understanding of running the thing.” Yes, at this point Fromm has accumulated quite a body of work. He enters his third spring having completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 5,364 yards with 54 TDs and 13 interceptions. His career efficiency rating finishing fifth in the nation last season at 171..21 is a hardy 166.90. As ever, though, Fromm’s plan is to be even better. To do that, he hopes to improve in the area of mobility and quarterback run while creating even more explosive plays as a passer. No reason at this point to think Fromm won’t make that happen. “I want to make my teammates the best I can, the team the best I can, I want to be successful,” he said. “I want to win a lot of football games, I want to win the SEC Championship, I want to win the national championship, I want to be great. So I’m going to come in and compete and strive to be the best I can be every day.” The post Georgia QB Jake Fromm’s plan: ‘To be great’ and ‘win a national championship’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Alabama football Nick Saban gave no indication he had any issues with Kirby Smart when interviewed by AJC-DawgNation at the CFP press conference in San Jose, Calif., last January. “We certainly have a lot of respect for Kirby and what he’s done at Georgia, and the very difficult games we’ve had playing them the last couple of years,” Saban said in the days leading up to the College Football Playoff Championship Game. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum recently suggested Saban has a strained relationship with Smart, who since leaving his side as Alabama’s defensive coordinator has grown into the biggest threat to dethrone the Tide. Smart was asked if his relationship with Saban was damaged during Georgia’s Tuesday press conference and essentially laughed it off. RELATED: Kirby Smart discusses relationship dynamics with Saban Saban said a lot of people confuse the competitive element with relationships. “It’s really not personal, you still have a certain amount of respect and admiration for them as people, the kind of person they are, the kind of values they have,” Saban said. “You appreciate what they’ve done to help you be successful, and you understand what they are trying to do to be successful, and you have a respect for that, and I don’t think that’s unhealthy in any way shape or form.” Saban used his relationship with Bill Belichick as an example, having worked as an assistant coach under Belichick with the Cleveland Browns en route to facing him from the opposite sideline in the NFL. “We were in the same division and we played two times a year,” said Saban, who coached the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East after Belichick had become the New England Patriots coach. “It’s not personal  …. when you compete against somebody, you want to do the best you can to try to help your team be successful and you respect them because they’re gonna do the same thing for their team.” Saban admits it’s tough to face former assistants who know the ins and outs of his program, but he said that’s part of the coaching business. “No doubt, they get to pick and choose which parts of what we do to utilize,” Saban said. “I did the same thing when I was coming up, whether it was George Perles at Michigan State or Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns. “That’s knowledge and experience, and that’s how you gain it.” Alabama football coach Nick Saban The post WATCH: Nick Saban asked about Kirby Smart competition, ‘It’s not personal’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart laughed when asked if he and Alabama coach Nick Saban had a strained relationship. “Absolutely not,” Smart said at the Bulldogs’ opening spring football press conference on Tuesday. “I don’t have any issue or any problem with any relationship with Nick. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s done anything but grown with more respect since we played them twice.” Alabama beat Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game two years ago, and again in the SEC Championship Game last December. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum had indicated there were issues between Saban and Smart this offseason. “We have a great relationship,” Smart said of his friendship with Saban. “We’re not texting and calling buddy buddy, but I don’t do that with anybody. “I have a lot of respect for him, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and there’s no problem with our relationship.” More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart strongly denies relationship issue with Nick Saban appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Kirby Smart said Georgia redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White will be out for spring drills. “Zamir is coming back, but he won’t be doing spring (drills) other than running on the side,” Smart said on Tuesday, “so he won’t be cleared.” White was injured in August drills playing on special teams while covering a punt. “Any time you have a non-contact ACL, and then you have a second one, you have to be careful,” Smart said. “When that happens, it makes you wonder if the kid can progress as fast as he did last time. “He’s running really well, he’s just not going to be involved in he scrimmage. I probably won’ know until early fall camp. He’s being re-habbing really well.” Smart also said the following players will be out: DL Michail Carter (shoulder surgery) LB Rian Davis, (knee surgery) TE Ryland Goede (knee surgery) RB Prather Hudson (shoulder surgery) DL David Marshall (foot surgery) LB Trezman Marshall (shoulder surgery) DL Julian Rochester (knee surgery) “We’ve also had a few hamstring injuries,” Smart said. Smart added that tailback James Cook has been cleared after suffering a severe ankle injury that required surgery.   The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart updates injury list, Zamir White appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart elaborated on Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann being promoted to defensive coordinator and co-defensive coordinator at Tuesday’s opening spring football press conference. “I’ve had a lot of confidence in Dan and Glenn, not everyone knows what goes on behind the scenes,” Smart said on Tuesday. “But as head coach you are in all those meetings, and you know how involved Dan and Glenn are, and I have a lot of confidence in those two guys.” Lanning was promoted to defensive coordinator on Feb. 15, some six weeks after Mel Tucker was hired to become Colorado’s new head coach. Smart was conspicuously silent on Lanning’s promotion at the time, later saying it was “probably overrated.” RELATED: Leadership questions arise from Kirby Smart offseason interview Smart explained that he’s in control of all of the units, and that what matters is how the staff works together. “When you sit in the seat that I sit in, we’re responsible for both sides of the ball and special teams,” Smart said on a radio interview with 690 The Fan. “So if you sit in those meetings, obviously it’s important to have good leadership but it’s done by a group of men who do it together.” Lanning received a raise from $325,000 to $750,000 in adding the defensive coordinator title to his inside linebacker coaching duties. RELATED: Dan Lanning a thrifty, promising hire for Kirby Smart Schumann, who will continue to work with the outside linebackers, received a raise from $325,000 to $550,000 to add the co-defensive coordinator title. More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post New Georgia DC Dan Lanning getting it done ‘behind the scenes’ appeared first on DawgNation.