As the standard bearer for all social media platforms, Facebook is constantly in the news for a whole variety of reasons. Lately, the live video streaming service Facebook Live has been a particular focus of the media, and not for the best of reasons.
Arguably the most high profile instance involved a man named Steve Stephens, who shot and killed a random stranger whilst streaming the act on Facebook Live. There have been numerous cases of child abuse, suicide, and other anti-social behavior being broadcast via the social media platform as well (in the interest of both taste and time I won’t bother to site additional cases, but a quick Google search for ‘Facebook Live’ will turn up many examples).
When Facebook Live launched in early 2016, I am sure it was not the intention of Mark Zuckerberg for his new tool to act as online repository of gore. The unfortunate thing is that live streaming tools have the capability to produce some much good, for both businesses, and for society in general.
To cite some more positive uses, pizza chain Domino’s has announced that it will be live streaming the cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off via Facebook Live on June 11. During the streaming, discount codes will be offered to viewers, with the potential for higher discounts to be offered as viewership increases. You can find out more about the promotion from Variety.
While not everyone may be able to screen blockbuster movies for smaller businesses, Facebook Live offers a free video-streaming service and another medium with which to reach customers. Outside of business uses, Facebook Live presents another tool for fighting the disengagement of the public with the political. Searching Google I have found numerous instances of political parties and governments using the tool to help share their messages with the public. In a very famous instance, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a video streaming service (FaceTime) to address citizens during an attempt coup.
It would be easy to right off Facebook Live as an ineffective, if not dangerous, social media tool, but rushing to judgment when it is barely a year old is a bit brash. A favourite phrase of mine, slightly truncated, is that a tool is neither inherently good nor evil; it just depends on how it is used. There is tremendous opportunity for Facebook Live to be used for good, and with Facebook staff now taking steps to curb anti-social behavior, the next year may well prove a bellwether for its future.