“There was big hype over the video, the stream had a good 2.8K views,”
April 21, 2016 7:19 AM   Subscribe

When Rape Is Broadcast Live On The Internet by Rossalyn Warren [Buzzfeed News] Sexual assault, domestic abuse, and attempted murder are among the crimes recently captured on live video services. BuzzFeed News uncovered one apparent incident of a rape aired in real time and asked what it means for the companies that host this content.
The Periscope link was titled “live sex” and colourful hearts, indicating people were liking the video, flooded the right-hand side of the screen. “This girl is getting raped,” a 20-year-old student in London tweeted. “I beg you, watch the whole thing,” she added in another tweet. “There was a point where the girl didn’t want sex no more, and the guy was telling her ‘one more’.”

The Periscope live video, shared on Twitter on 30 March, showed three young men and one young woman engaging in sexual activity in a well-lit bedroom in London. According to some of those who watched it, the males were fully clothed, while the female was only partially dressed. When one of the men was having sex with her, the other two were seen to be watching and recording on their phones, and were often heard laughing, or telling her what she should do.

After being alerted by one of the viewers, BuzzFeed News found and interviewed 15 people who watched the video. Although they publicly tweeted the link, all were willing to recount what they saw only if their quotes were kept anonymous. “There was big hype over the video, the stream had a good 2.8K views,” one 18-year-old student from Hackney, east London, told BuzzFeed News. “People were constantly inviting their friends to watch.” It took some of the viewers a little while to realise that what they were watching live was a serious crime: rape.
posted by Fizz (91 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
From the article: Soon after streaming the incident – and after many of the Periscope comments and tweets described the video as rape – the person who filmed the footage deleted his Periscope account, as well as his Twitter account. If a user deletes a Periscope video within 24 hours of airing, the company has no copy of it. That means there is now no recording of the live stream on Periscope’s servers, and so if someone did want to take the case to police, there would be no video evidence available.

I admit I don't know anything about Periscope's backend, but how can this possibly be true? Even if it was intentionally designed this way to avoid the servers getting overwhelmed if the popularity of the service suddenly scaled beyond expectation, they had to know that there was a possibility that a crime would be caught on stream and that the police would want them to maintain that evidence.
posted by IAmUnaware at 7:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is where things get messy, IAmUnaware. Periscope streams are big - I pulled one down, from a 2 hour recording, and it weighed about a gig an hour (and for not particularly good quality). Archiving this stuff would have a big impact on a company just starting out.

The other side is that, in the UK, data retention laws are trying to cause providers to archive this kind of thing for several years. I doubt Periscope would have been able to launch under those regulatory requirements - it would certainly cost significantly more. This is also a wildly unpopular requirement. It's a fine line and I'm not even sure there's a middle ground of sanity/privacy/legality/utility somewhere in there.
posted by davemee at 7:48 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not even the first incident w/ Periscope that I've read about this month: Woman charged with live-streaming teen’s rape on Periscope
posted by indubitable at 7:48 AM on April 21, 2016


Periscope is owned by Twitter, it's not a start-up.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 7:50 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


If one sees the video, but the video is destroyed, isn't that person still a witness? If I see a crime happen, I'm a witness even if there is no video evidence of it happening.
posted by archimago at 7:57 AM on April 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Just...I can't even begin to process this. It makes me hurt.
posted by Kitteh at 7:58 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


If one sees the video, but the video is destroyed, isn't that person still a witness?

I'd be interested in understanding how laws differ by country in terms of witnessing something that is obviously a very serious criminal act, and doing nothing to report it. Could any of these witnesses be charged with anything for participating and not making an effort to report it?

It seems like at the very least, Periscope should be held to *some* measure of accountability for hosting this type of thing. Fine them to the point that it hurts them enough to set up the analytics to track all users with at least time stamps if not archiving the content.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:01 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


From the article:
Instead its parent company, Twitter, directed BuzzFeed to the terms and conditions regarding inappropriate, graphic, or spam content, outlined on Periscope’s website. “Periscope is about being in the moment, connected to a person and a place,” it reads. “This immediacy encourages direct and unfiltered participation in a story as it’s unfolding. There are a few guidelines intended to keep Periscope open and safe. Have fun, and be decent to one another.”
USERS: We want some kind of protection from online harassment.
TWITTER: Here's a new way to never miss important tweets from people you follow.
USERS: Also, it'd be nice if we had a way to deal with threats of violence, abuse, stalking, etc.
TWITTER: NBA Allstar Emoji have arrived.
USERS: An edit button would make tweeting more user friendly.
TWITTER: Here's how you can catch up on what's been happening at Coachella....
USERS: *sighs*
posted by Fizz at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2016 [58 favorites]


Now that I've read the article, I want to vomit.
posted by archimago at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Periscope is about being in the moment, connected to a person and a place. This immediacy encourages direct and unfiltered participation in a rape as it’s unfolding. -- Twitter 2016
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


The inability of companies to monitor live content

That may be true now, but advances in machine learning show that real-time monitoring are not far off.

Three predictions from these incidents:
1) providers will be required to archive copies of all live content
2) machine learning processes will be taught to flag questionable activities
3) some kind of software opt-in system will be developed

Machine Learning Friend and I had conversation last night at dinner about neural networks and machine processes, as the technology moves from the lab into the fuzzier and more difficult real-world.

With regards to #2, basically any online content created will be streamed through machine learning processes. There may be two initial conditions – 1) safe, and if not safe, 2) sent for review. Or, 1) prohibited, if not prohibited, then 2) allowed.

Open content will be analysed in real-time. Versions of that software are already running in airports/train stations/ and by police departments around the world (face/identity detection software).

It's possible that even encrypted content could be "tracked" even if it's not understood.

With regards to #3, given the level of intelligence and connectivity in phones, combined with the blurring of public / private content, it will be possible for a device to do face detection in real time and require the equivalent of model releases. In a central database, you could set your profile to be "open" or "closed" and have the system not include you in digital representations by default.

There are a number of tricky things here.

The first is that these violent case of abuse with things like Periscope are going to require massive changes in monitoring infrastructure, which will require new negotiations in civil liberties.

The second is that machine learning is ready for big applications. Now it needs huge volumes of data – the kind of data that can be produced by legislating review requirements for all content streams. That will be a tremendous step in the development of learning machines, however, again, that requires a whole new layer of civil liberty reviews.

The third is that the monopolistic effect of things like Facebook and Google have a huge benefit when it comes to regulation, in the form that you don't need to move many providers to affect the vast majority of online content. Network effects are driving people to common carrier platforms, and that means new safety regulations can be swiftly implemented – compared with previous decentralised systems.

Note, I am not saying that these requirements / predictions have a good or bad value. Only that behind the advancement in mobile broadcast technology is the advancement of technology that can police those broadcasts.

It will be a huge task for governments and citizens to work out what new social contracts look like in the age of instantaneous live video from anywhere on the planet, and the machine learning systems that can arbitrate it.

At the end of dinner, we closed with the idea that political discussions continue to focus on old themes like immigration and enemy spectres, when we are quickly approaching 1) the complete transformation of money, 2) unlimited content production and distribution, and 3) machine intelligence.
posted by nickrussell at 8:27 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Periscope is about being in the moment, connected to a person and a place. This immediacy encourages direct and unfiltered participation in a rape as it’s unfolding. -- Twitter 2016
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:24 AM on April 21 [+] [!]


I cannot favourite that. It's just too fucking sad.
posted by Fizz at 8:27 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


they had to know that there was a possibility that a crime would be caught on stream and that the police would want them to maintain that evidence.

The slightly cynical answer is that of course they've thought of it and that's why they have a short retention policy. As long as all files are deleted in accordance with the policy, it's very easy and relatively inexpensive to respond to warrants with, "I'm sorry, we don't have it any more."

Anything dealing with digital privacy is going to have good and bad people take advantage of it. Cryptographically secure messages are going to be used by people fleeing abusive environments and ISIS, anonymizing proxies that store no logs whatsoever are going to be used by Chinese dissidents and money launderers.
posted by Candleman at 8:29 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Periscope is about being in the moment, connected to a person and a place. This immediacy encourages direct and unfiltered participation in a rape as it’s unfolding. -- Twitter 2016

Eh, this is kind of a ridiculous complaint. I mean, it's a live video service. Unless the argument is that no live TV, video, or streaming of any kind should ever be allowed, then I don't know what your issue with Periscope/Twitter/FacebookLive/NBC/CNN/BBC exactly is.

Should it have been archived? I dunno. I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who if told Periscope was archiving EVERY SINGLE ONE of their live streams would be utterly outraged at such a horrible violation of their privacy. I mean, I can totally imagine the outcry here if such a thing were revealed (and justifiably so, I might add).

It seems to me that if there were thousands of people that watched this, then they should be called to testify, and used to prosecute the fuck out of the defendants. But pinning the blame on a video provider to me is just... odd.
posted by modernnomad at 8:32 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I don't think that it's a "horrible violation of [user's] privacy" to have all streams archived, considering that Periscope is a privately owned and voluntary to use service that can impose whatever terms of use the company wants, and I don't see where the outrage would come from unless they were doing so secretly or without the permission of their users.
posted by .holmes at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2016


Dismissing a rape in such a shitty boilerplate corporate way is, well, shitty, was the point I failed to get across.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Eh, this is kind of a ridiculous complaint. I mean, it's a live video service. Unless the argument is that no live TV, video, or streaming of any kind should ever be allowed, then I don't know what your issue with Periscope/Twitter/FacebookLive/NBC/CNN/BBC exactly is.

Twitter is profiting from airing live rape videos. Not only that, but you can argue they're encouraging crime to occur considering the person was getting off on the audience and system made available to them. You really don't have any issues with that? If they're going to be making money off this in one form or another, then they should bear the burden of the issues involved, too.

Why should a billion dollar corporation have fewer responsibilities than an individual citizen?
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who if told Periscope was archiving EVERY SINGLE ONE of their live streams would be utterly outraged at such a horrible violation of their privacy.

Probably fewer of them would use it to record crimes they're committing tho.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


This side of the argument --- police should be able to access evidence of crimes, particularly those caught on video--- is the flip side of the iPhone (or any other corporate entity) privacy crypto/data retention debate.

Periscope can argue it's on the side of the angels here, the commonality here being that the company has no control over user data. By not keeping records, it doesn't have anything to turn over to police.
posted by bonehead at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not sure that I see the equivalence, bonehead. iPhone encryption has to do with data that the user has decided to keep private, whereas with Periscope streams they've chosen to make it public.
posted by .holmes at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


In both cases, the companies put user data beyond their own reach, so making them technically impossible to retrieve evidence from. Both good crypto and short retention are used to defeat surveillance. That's an end goal of both strategies, user privacy.
posted by bonehead at 8:51 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


A law requiring companies to archive indefinitely all video that goes through their livestreaming service is absurd on a cost required level. Deleting videos after a certain amount of times saves a whole lot of money. Twitch deletes videos after a couple of weeks if you aren't a subscriber. Also, if a law like that was constructed, it would have to be narrowly done to limit it to "public" streams (which is a fuzzy concept in itself). These types of laws would lead to communications providers required to store copies of your phone calls or video chats? That sounds like a bad thing to me.

Machine learning can do some amazing things, but look at the accuracy of these techniques. The false positive rate for 'ongoing crime' will be much higher than you think. Additionally, look at the computational power needed to run them on live video for all users of a service.

These kinds of technological approaches to try to stop criminal incidents like what happened in the article lead to Person of Interest style dystopian futures. Imagine a government (or corporate) system that has up-to-date photos of all citizens and an API that can check a video for the identities of those persons and then contact them to ask if the video containing their likeness can be streamed? The societal ramifications for an effective livestreaming "opt-in system" are enormous.
posted by demiurge at 9:03 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


i'm beginning to believe things will never get better for women. shining a light on our continued abuse seems to only result in more publicly being told that it doesn't matter and our pain is entertainment.
posted by nadawi at 9:05 AM on April 21, 2016 [47 favorites]


That's an end goal of both strategies, user privacy.

User privacy for a public-facing video livestream seems like an odd argument to make.

I can understand the need for anonymity for releasing info to the public for say, whistlerblowers, or other activities that might be crimes but are nonviolent. Violent crimes like assault, rape, murder....there's no need to protect user privacy in commission of such acts. The company should be held responsible, and should be civilly and even criminally liable for such things. Deleted records of such acts? Obstruction of justice.

Of course, you'd need to find evidence to prove the case, but there must be metadata of viewers and posters, screenshots, etc. Get witnesses in front of a grand jury, get warrants to search all their servers, subpoena the shit out of them. Find the names or IP addresses of the viewers, get warrants to search their computers. It'll be hard, but we as a society need to shut this kind of shit down post-haste.

I get that there's concerns about government overreach, so push for legislation to protect the whistleblowers. Don't provide a blanket coverage for rapists to broadcast their crimes.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:07 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think that it's a "horrible violation of [user's] privacy" to have all streams archived, considering that Periscope is a privately owned and voluntary to use service that can impose whatever terms of use the company wants, and I don't see where the outrage would come from unless they were doing so secretly or without the permission of their users.

iOS users: imagine if all of your FaceTime sessions were centrally stored, unencrypted, by Apple indefinitely.
posted by indubitable at 9:12 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's more akin to a phone call, though, than to a software service built specifically for broadcasting video.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:15 AM on April 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Hm, point taken, I guess this lands more on the practicality of retaining so much data.
posted by indubitable at 9:19 AM on April 21, 2016


A problem here is that some of the law that protects Periscope is fairly important to free speech on the Internet.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:19 AM on April 21, 2016


the idea that with a stream that big no one was pulling it down to pass around later seems beyond belief. so much of the 'live, never stored!' content is saved and reuploaded elsewhere, often without the original broadcasters involvement.
posted by nadawi at 9:19 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just another example of Venture Capitalist Technology allowing us to make public what we are REALLY like, without any gains in responsibility. That would just kill Twitter's profitability.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:20 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'd be astonished if this video weren't all over the various porn sites--xhamster, porntube, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:21 AM on April 21, 2016


User privacy for a public-facing video livestream seems like an odd argument to make.

Impermanence is a form of privacy in my view. People get uncomfortable and disturbed when they get photographed or recorded, even when they're in public places. Photographers need releases to use images taken in public places. A public stream, ephemeral, even one broadcast to the net at large, still has an expectation of privacy built into it.
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Future privacy, that is. It can't be recorded or rebroadcast, only seen once.
posted by bonehead at 9:32 AM on April 21, 2016


even one broadcast to the net at large, still has an expectation of privacy built into it

That... doesn't make any sense? Broadcasting is the opposite of private. It's not reasonable to expect privacy, and it's trivial to record broadcasts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:33 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Broadcast, but not retention. Like live theatre, it only happens once, no recordings.
posted by bonehead at 9:35 AM on April 21, 2016


Broadcast, but not retention. Like live theatre, it only happens once, no recordings.

Except as multiple people have pointed out, this isn't even a little bit true.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Impermanence is a form of privacy in my view.

This is a useful concept, though I wonder if it's more of an alternative to actual privacy. The linkage is formal in Europe, with the 'right to be forgotten.' Which does allow you to, in effect, claw back some publicly released content from whoever was hosting it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:38 AM on April 21, 2016


Except as multiple people have pointed out, this isn't even a little bit true.
It is from Periscope's point of view.

Similarly should people recording, like people who record bootleg concert video, be able to be sued for copyright violations? It's technically possible, perhaps, but legally, the broadcasters/originators do have the expectation of control of their own streams?
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2016


'Get this to 2k likes!'

All that JG Ballard and Clockwork Orange stuff actually came true.
posted by colie at 9:43 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Flag this stream for review" - which would tell them to archive a specific video - seems preferable to automatically archiving everything.
posted by atoxyl at 9:43 AM on April 21, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah I'd be astonished if this video weren't all over the various porn sites--xhamster, porntube, etc.

Isn't this what the involuntary porn (so-called revenge porn) laws are about? At least some of those have criminal penalties now.
posted by bonehead at 9:43 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]



Except as multiple people have pointed out, this isn't even a little bit true.
It is from Periscope's point of view.


You mean, their point of view which is based in an imaginary universe and/or is a baldfaced lie meant to legally cover their asses? Yes, but the point is that they're wrong, deluded at best and malicious at worst, and their delusions/malice should not inform policy.

But I really am having an impossible time parsing your syntax in that post so I don't even know if I'm following your train of thought.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Imagine a government (or corporate) system that has up-to-date photos of all citizens

Not ALL citizens, but isn't this the DMV?
posted by archimago at 9:53 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's too bad none of the spectators was able to find out where it was happening and call the police.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:59 AM on April 21, 2016


You mean, their point of view which is based in an imaginary universe and/or is a baldfaced lie meant to legally cover their asses?

Is the lie that Periscope can't recover the video? It's entirely credible to me that they can't for the technical reasons indicated above, but more to the point, it's also credible to me that they've done so deliberately with with the best of intentions, to protect their user's right to be forgotten. We can argue if that's a form or privacy or something different, but Periscope could argue to be on the side of their users' anonymity by not keeping this data.

The flagging and response issues, if that's what you're talking about, seem to be practical problems of under-staffing rather than malicious intent. That's a different set of problems. Puting an 911/999/emergency stop button on a stream interface could be a headache big enough to make streaming impractical in any case.
posted by bonehead at 10:12 AM on April 21, 2016


US Code 2257 requires that adult videos be kept and made available at the attorney general's request afaik. Why wouldn't this be subject to that law?
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 10:20 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the lie that Periscope can't recover the video?

No, the lie is that the recording is ephemeral.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Periscope doesn't produce adult videos, Radiophonic Oddity. In fact they don't produce videos at all.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:22 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, §2257 occurred to me too. But the thrust of §230 of the CDA is that the hosting provider generally isn't treated as the content producer.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:22 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are there other contexts where we think corporate commitments to customer / user privacy should trump mere criminal law? If I run a bank, for example, can I delete all evidence of my clients' transactional history so that they can avoid money laundering charges? What's the difference? After all, I'm sure financial privacy is very important to bank clients and some banks would love to guarantee it.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are there other contexts where we think corporate commitments to customer / user privacy should trump mere criminal law?

That's pretty much Apple's crypto argument.
posted by bonehead at 10:24 AM on April 21, 2016


Are there other contexts where we think corporate commitments to customer / user privacy should trump mere criminal law?

Customers/users are also citizens. So, yes. Or, rather, 'mere criminal law' incorporates privacy protections. Rather important Constitutional ones. At least, it's supposed to.

Wiretapping a phone line is an older form of breaching a corporate commitment to a customer's privacy, for instance.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Of course, but that has to do with when disclosure can be compelled not what information can be recorded. A company can refuse to disclose data to the state because, in the particular case, the case for the interference with privacy can't be made out: that is, you can say the law doesn't require them to hand over the information in that case. But pre-emptively refusing to even record the information, regardless of the law, seems to be analytically different to me.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


the lie is that the recording is ephemeral.

In other words that Periscope does in fact retain recordings, even when their users delete before 24-hours is up. Why do you believe this? I see nothing to contradict that.

You can argue that this is wrong and stupid of them, but it's entirely believable to me that Periscope do in fact do this.
posted by bonehead at 10:30 AM on April 21, 2016


But pre-emptively refusing to even record the information, regardless of the law, seems to be analytically different to me.

Splitting that hair doesn't really make sense? (At least to me.) If a court is going to order that kind of retention, the manifest purpose is to subject it to disclosure under subpoena. Right?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:30 AM on April 21, 2016


In other words that Periscope does in fact retain recordings, even when their users delete before 24-hours is up.

Uh, no. That it is trivial to record these broadcasts, many people do (look through any user-content porn site, or indeed tumblr, and you'll see lots of stuff from cam4, chaturbate, chatroulette, snapchat, etc). The people behind Periscope are pretending that isn't the case.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:33 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


If a court is going to order that kind of retention, the manifest purpose is to subject it to disclosure under subpoena. Right?

So, absent a law requiring them to do so, the simplest thing for a company to do is simple not retain data, any data, they don't have to. That way they can quite justifiably both tell a court that that they don't have the data to provide and so promise that degree of anonymity to their clients.
posted by bonehead at 10:33 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's not a question of what a court orders but what legislation can require. For example, banks do currently come under significant duties to retain data about clients' financial transactions. They can (and must) decline to disclose it when there isn't a case for the violation of privacy involved in disclosing that information. But the state isn't violating privacy by just asking them to keep the records, assuming the law robustly limits the situations when the records can be demanded.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:35 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just because someone else can record the video as it's being streamed doesn't mean that the service that streamed it has an obligation to store its own recording of the video.
posted by demiurge at 10:45 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


That it is trivial to record these broadcasts.... The people behind Periscope are pretending that isn't the case.

I still don't see why Periscope should be responsible for that. Rebroadcast is likely all forms of unallowed or illegal.

Using third-party software is likely against their terms of service (they have standard no unauthorized use of our protocols clauses), likely a violation of the originator's copyrights, the (forced) participants rights to privacy, and, in most of the cases mentioned in the Buzzfeed article, likely criminal law too. At least one of those, the US one, would be distribution of child porn in Canada. In other words, matters for either for the police or for civil enforcement, like a person suing a photographer for unlawful use of their image (but rather more serious, in this case).

So the people recording and rebroadcasting theses videos would be breaking all kinds of civil agreements and possibly criminal laws too. I can't see why Periscope should be responsible for that.
posted by bonehead at 10:49 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


So, absent a law requiring them to do so, the simplest thing for a company to do is simple not retain data, any data, they don't have to. That way they can quite justifiably both tell a court that that they don't have the data to provide and so promise that degree of anonymity to their clients.

Yes, that is literally the simplest thing to do, and it's often advisable from a legal and business perspective. From that view, archiving sensitive data that the company has no future use for only wastes money and subjects the company and its users to liability. Arguably, retaining the data if not required could be actionable mismanagement of the company (especially at a publicly traded company).

And the corporate citizenship view cuts both ways, as already pointed out. On the one side, a company is turning a blind eye to misuse of a platform they're profiting from. On the other, you have the free speech issues around the s.230 safe harbor, and the problems that would arise from a social media company voluntarily acting as an Orwellian Big Brother in the criminal domain.


It's not a question of what a court orders but what legislation can require. For example, banks do currently come under significant duties to retain data about clients' financial transactions. They can (and must) decline to disclose it when there isn't a case for the violation of privacy involved in disclosing that information. But the state isn't violating privacy by just asking them to keep the records, assuming the law robustly limits the situations when the records can be demanded.


Well, that comparison is better as a pro-retention argument than a wiretap. But, financial transaction metadata isn't speech. Here, you'd have to retain the actual content. On the other hand, the content/speech in this instance was originally broadcast. So, maybe we don't need to care about that. (But then are we saying we also don't care about rapes narrow-cast on members only channels?)

Beyond that cost of archiving literally everything, even temporarily, on a service designed for impermanent communication, could support an argument that such a mandate is overbroad and a damper on speech. Where do you draw the line? Chat services too? Any old IRC server? Slack (yes, this one's a bit different)?
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Violent crimes like assault, rape, murder....there's no need to protect user privacy in commission of such acts.

Sorry, I just noticed this above. I disagree on the strongest terms with this. I don't think in many cases the victims are being recorded voluntarily. Do the victims have no say in the use of their images? What about kids? This isn't nearly this simple or clean-cut.

Indeed, we had one rape case in Canada recently where the final judgements against the accused were of distribution of child pornography. In that case too, nothing was published on the open web, but photos of the rape were passed around widely in the victim's social circle.
posted by bonehead at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


[bonehead, I think you've made your points pretty thoroughly; let the thread breathe a bit and let others respond, thanks.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:57 AM on April 21, 2016


I don't believe a bank could function without some kind of record-keeping of transactions. That's part of the bank's purpose.

The crime that happened would probably have happened regardless of whether this technology existed. What we're grappling with now is that we have knowledge of a crime that we can't do anything about (probably).

The short, horrible answer is that unless the victim is found/comes forward/presses charges, we'll never know what happened to her.

The long, confusing answer is, that we don't really have an idea yet of what we could do that would a. work and b. not create even more injustice.
posted by emjaybee at 11:02 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The long, confusing answer is, that we don't really have an idea yet of what we could do that would a. work and b. not create even more injustice.

This. It's a tough nut to crack.

Hopefully, emphasis on the "yet."
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2016


I really hope the media signal boost on this isn't inspiring any copycats.
posted by ODiV at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2016


Violent crimes like assault, rape, murder....there's no need to protect user privacy in commission of such acts.

Sorry, I just noticed this above. I disagree on the strongest terms with this. I don't think in many cases the victims are being recorded voluntarily.


Note that I said user and not victim. Presumably the person recording the crime would be the perpetrator or an accomplice; a victim recording a crime perpetrated against themselves would have a vested interest in retaining those records and making them available to law enforcement. I'm willing to grant that the situation is more complicated than I made it above, and I don't have a good solution here. I do think that records, even if they are simply metadata, should be available to law enforcement if a violent assault is suspected. Particularly if that stream was publicly broadcast.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2016


I'd be interested in understanding how laws differ by country in terms of witnessing something that is obviously a very serious criminal act, and doing nothing to report it. Could any of these witnesses be charged with anything for participating and not making an effort to report it?

I know that in the UK (where this occurred) and the US (where most of us reading this live) there is no legal duty to report a crime you witness outside a few narrow exceptions like a mandatory reporter witnessing child abuse.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on April 21, 2016


There's no legal duty to report, no. The CPS tend to try to get people on "aiding and abetting" instead.
posted by tinkletown at 12:06 PM on April 21, 2016


it's entirely believable to me that Periscope do in fact do this.

Sure it is. You can also delete your Facebook account.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:16 PM on April 21, 2016


Although video content can be immensely large, given how large companies can be, and economies of scale, and the fact that data storage is relatively cheap, it's actually not that onerous for a company to keep video records.

Twitch until just recently was keeping archived copies online available for every stream by default. Now, by default, all videos are archived for only three months, but users are able to effectively select videos and have them permanently archived.

So just keeping an archived version of a Periscope up for like a week isn't too crazy of a requirement, so that if something criminal happens, investigators can flag the video to Periscope and acquire a copy.
posted by Dalby at 12:32 PM on April 21, 2016


Well, it seems Periscope archives it's stuff anyways, except for those small cases where a user deletes a video/account within 24 hours, in which case, it seems perfectly possible for Periscope to change their backend such that they themselves still retain a copy.
posted by Dalby at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2016


They're stored SOMEWHERE because I watched the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Periscope feed of a baby otter several days after it happened. I doubt that organization is using some sketchy third party software.
posted by AFABulous at 1:10 PM on April 21, 2016


On data retention: it's not an all or nothing thing. They could easily implement a system where if a stream gets a certain amount of user flags it is archived for review or a longer time period.

Puting an 911/999/emergency stop button on a stream interface could be a headache big enough to make streaming impractical in any case.


You could easily make it available to only users and have a zero tolerance policy for abuse resulting in account deletion. You'd still have spam accounts for people to abuse but there's ways to mitigate that.
posted by mayonnaises at 2:01 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, impermanence is one way that individuals experience privacy, and it has value, but it does not translate well into the online world. There is no real way to assure you that your sent messages, much less your broadcast, cannot be archived, so individuals should not be encouraged to pursue impermanence online. If you want impermanence, then you should participate in an offline iteration, like maybe some festival, convention, etc.

About this specific case : There are always individuals who push the envelope towards broadcasting real abuse, but normally we stop them by turning the recorded artifact into evidence against the abusers. We risk however that DRM could enable a measure of individuals online, probably to everyone's detriment. It's not that Disney will prosecute hackers who break their DRM to create a pure open source codec for Linux, VLC, etc., maybe that's being addressed, but maybe not since the DMCA has criminal penalties too. It's that if all the viewers of an online rape use the Disney approved viewer built into Windows and OS X, then they cannot record the evidence to report it to police. Yet another reason we should oppose DRM support in standards and common products.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 PM on April 21, 2016


The crime that happened would probably have happened regardless of whether this technology existed.

Would it, though? To judge from the news story, the social aspect was pretty central to this particular crime. Maybe it wouldn't have gone so far if fewer people had given it the thumbs up.

Technology, particularly communications technology, isn't a transparent filter overlaid on human behavior. It affects the nature of that behavior and even renders whole new forms of behavior possible. I'm obbiously not saying "Therefore we should ban livestreaming" but it's certainly worth asking how livestreaming will affect society (through changes in behavior) and whether our institutions are prepared for that.

(And it's important not to let companies, even hip companies with beanbags, get away with the claim that the effect they have on society is inevitable and natural and therefore they can't be expected to actually shape or moderate it, e.g. by instituting a functional review process for live streaming.)
posted by No-sword at 2:43 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seems a lot of people want to outlaw ephemeral broadcasting under the assumption that the costs and risks of archiving everything are trivial. I think the desired outcome for those people is for services like Periscope to operate much as they do today, but with the added benefit of helping police investigate serious crimes. I don't think that's a likely outcome at all, though. I think we'd see one of following results instead:

1. Services like Periscope just wouldn't exist, because it's too costly or too legally risky to keep archives.

2. The service still exists, but fewer people use it because they don't like the idea of everything they broadcast being recorded for posterity and made available in the future to unknown parties.

3. The service exists and people use it as they do now, but for every time the archives are used to prosecute a serious crime, they're used dozens of times to prosecute petty offenses like drug possession, or to blackmail people who've committed no crime but just don't want an embarrassing video made public.

I don't see how any of those outcomes are desirable.

Another point I object to is that the idea of privacy doesn't apply to something that's broadcast publicly. The mistake, it seems to me, is to imagine that privacy is an all-or-nothing proposition. If this were the case, then doxxing would be no big deal, because the people doing it are just sharing information that's already public. There's a big difference between data that's public (i.e. theoretically available to anyone) and data that's publicized (i.e. actually brought to the attention of a large number of people). In the case of a video broadcast, there's a real difference between a public broadcast that could in principle be recorded by anyone on the internet who happened to be watching at the right time, and a broadcast that is in fact recorded and made available long after the broadcast is over.
posted by shponglespore at 5:05 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


There's a big difference between data that's public (i.e. theoretically available to anyone) and data that's publicized (i.e. actually brought to the attention of a large number of people).

Exactly. And video broadcasts are publicized data.
posted by Dalby at 5:25 PM on April 21, 2016




"I don't see how any of those outcomes are desirable."

I don't really care if any of those outcomes occurred if it meant less rape and less pain for survivors of rape who will not have to deal with being livestreamed by thousands of people and having to cope with that afterwards.

Yeah, I don't see any possible way that people have any sort of need of periscope that in any way is as important as protecting human beings from that experience.
posted by xarnop at 7:17 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


The vast majority of information about most crimes already gets lost before law enforcement have a chance to use it, and I think that's the price of living in a non-dystopia. With a bit of imagination, there's no limit to the measures we could put in place to help the police investigate crimes, but each one would mean less privacy and freedom for people just trying to do non-evil things, and the potential for official abuse is staggering. When we don't seriously weigh the potential drawbacks of new crime-fighting measures against the benefits, because the crime we have in mind is so terrible, we end up not being able to take normal-sized toothpaste tubes on a plane and racially profiling brown people at airports all day long. I'm not sure how much those things have really helped prevent terrorism, and I'm not sure how much requiring broadcasting services to archive all their video would stop people from committing rape or help bring those who did to justice. I think you'd be more likely to get the police investigating drug use and non-violent probation violations while any Periscope-using rapists wore masks and otherwise attempted to negate the evidential value of the footage.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:02 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm finding it hard to understand the pro-privacy arguments being made here. I agree with privacy advocates, I belived Apple was taking the right position. I'm not getting what people are arguing in favor of Periscope though. What right to privacy do I have when I specifically broadcast something? To me it is equivalent to throwing something in the garbage, not government coming in and invading my privacy.

I also think maybe we need to be a little Amish in our approach here. What real value Is provided by this technological service, and is it good for society?

We feel that there should be ethical standards for scientists, but what about engineers? Because I can build a service, does that mean that I should not be required to have safeguards around that service to dissuade abuse?
posted by herda05 at 10:29 PM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


"I don't really care if any of those outcomes occurred if it meant less rape and less pain for survivors of rape who will not have to deal with being livestreamed by thousands of people and having to cope with that afterwards."

Sure, less rape is great, but how does regulating livestreaming out of existence achieve that goal? It seems an awful lot like shooting the messenger to me.
posted by shponglespore at 10:20 AM on April 22, 2016


How do you even start a sentence with "Sure, less rape is great, but"? I don't mind having a think about tech, these companies, the social consequences, privacy of publicized content, etc, and people are bringing up good points, but read your comment out before submitting, please.
posted by ODiV at 10:30 AM on April 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's ephemeral broadcasting that cannot exist without oppressive regulation, shponglespore. We should oppose most-ish regulations on live streaming technology, including the DMCA's anti-circumvention measures. We must therefore expect that any live streaming technology can potentially be recorded.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:16 AM on April 22, 2016


Anyone remember the EFF's fight with Burning Man over their photo policy? I think Burning Man largely backed down adopting much milder legal language that still manages to discourage commercial usage of photos from the event.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:30 PM on April 22, 2016


I don't see how any of those outcomes are desirable.

That's not an argument, it's an opinion. We don't have to treat every single startup's idea for a service as a human right. If we (as a society) decide that the benefits of livestreaming don't outweigh the costs unless livestreamers are required to shoulder some of the externalities (in the form of archiving publicly broadcast streams, say), and it turns out that shouldering those externalities makes providing the service cost-prohibitive, that isn't any more unjust or undesirable in principle than me being unable to set up the chemical manufacturing plant I'd like to because it wouldn't turn a profit unless I just dumped the waste straight into the river.
posted by No-sword at 5:20 PM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Except for the First and Fourth Amendments. We might need those later.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:43 AM on April 23, 2016


We should certainly not require live streaming services to archive content either, No-sword. Are your phone calls live streams? It's a safe bet the FBI would think so.

We should not regulate technology in ways that lock us into using these stupid startups with their centralized services. Imagine some peer-to-peer live streaming tool for reporting police brutality. It'd probably cache the live streams only temporarily, due to limited donated storage, unless some indicator suggested an important segment, like the app triggering it or shutting down improperly, or screaming being heard, etc. It's clear the NYPD or LAPD would abuse any live streaming retention law to make this illegal.

We've perfectly sensible laws now where individuals may normally record conversations they're involved in, streams they witness, etc. It's enough to ensure that normal non-technical people to record content. It's mostly enough to prevent corporations form creating artificially ephemeral broadcast using close source software with DRM and the DMCA.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:48 AM on April 23, 2016


It's mostly enough to prevent corporations form creating artificially ephemeral broadcast using close source software with DRM and the DMCA.

I don't see ephermerality as having much to do with corporations at all: it's about protecting the stream creator and, more relevant in this case, the participants in the streams.

It's about a private individual deciding whether someone else has the right to republish their work or image. If Periscope (or someone else) decides to allow unarchived streams , users and participants should have a reasonable expectation that that's what's happening.

If a creator wants to limit access to a live stream only, they have copyright on their side.

If an unwilling participant wants to prevent rebroadcast of abuse, they have privacy rights and, increasingly criminal sanctions to work with.

None of these rely on technical ability. A typical deadbolt can be picked with some $10 picks and a half-hour of practice. That doesn't make it right or acceptable to casually browse through others' houses when they're not at home. DRM or not, crypto or not, just because something is possible doesn't make it legal or even moral.
posted by bonehead at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2016


We have legal mechanism for enforcing copyright law, which work well enough when the violating party is earns money from the distribution. We should not allow corporation to create their own enforcement mechanisms for their own preferred interpretation copyright law, via close source software with DRM. We certainly should sanctify their enforcement and interpretation with the DMCA.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:57 AM on April 24, 2016


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