Live Video

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ive Video
is a real-time feed of events as they occur without edit intervention. Specifically, Live Video is a form of media streaming via television or the internet where video feed is broadcast to all viewers in real-time as it is being filmed. It is the simultaneous act of the user uploading content as the viewer downloads and watches it. This differs from on-demand streaming which is streamed from a recorded source at any time. Recent developments in technical capability and expansion of access to the public at large without delay or cursory content review have raised legal, ethical, and moral questions. Live Video uses fall into two categories, the first being mainstream media which is from websites, newspapers, television networks, or magazines producing broadcasts of sporting events, award shows, cooking videos, news, and others. The second category is media produced by an ordinary user such as someone sharing a video of their travels, their workout routine, or their hidden unicycling talent.


The first live video was a television broadcast by BBC’s John Logie Baird on March 25, 1925 at a time when the first televisions as we know them today were still being developed. [1] As technology improved, live broadcasts on television became commonplace until videotaping was invented in the1950s. [2] Now, it is still common for programs such as news broadcasts, sporting events, and award shows to be streamed live on television.

It was not until the late 1990s and early 2000s that network bandwidth was strong enough to stream audio and video feed to most computers. In 1993, the band Severe Tire Damage became the first group to broadcast live over the internet from a concert in Xerox PARC. This was accomplished by the company MBone using IP multicasting. In the following few years, baseball games, symphonies, and various rock bands were all featured in live broadcasts over the Internet.

Over the next decade, network system and hardware improvements were made so that in 2005, when YouTube was founded, the technology existed on most home computers to take advantage of this new capability. This was a pivotal moment in Live Video expansion onto social media platforms.

2016 fostered the most growth in Live Video. Many of the most popular social media platforms have implemented their own form of Live Video and are investing a lot of money to help it gain popularity. Twitter paid $10 million for the right to live stream NFL games on Thursday nights through their Periscope app [3] and Facebook spent over $50 million in contracts to produce live videos. [4] With social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook encouraging users to make and watch live videos they are changing social media from being asynchronous where one can view information at their own pace, to prompting users with notifications to log-in and view content the moment it is created.


Facebook Live

Facebook is a popular social media site for posting and sharing information and communicating with others. When Facebook Live was originally released in 2015, it was only available to celebrities and public figures, though later in April of 2016, Facebook Live was released for use by all users. [5] Since then, Facebook’s “reactions” feature has also been incorporated into the Facebook Live function, and keeping with the theme of real-time, viewers’ reactions appear to float through the video as they occur. Facebook even has a tab along the bottom of the mobile application dedicated solely to Facebook Live videos, in addition to their appearance in a bar at the top of a users screen on the mobile app. In 2016 Facebook invested over $50 million into creating contracts with media companies and celebrities such as Tastemade, Huffington Post, Kevin Hart, and Gordon Ramsay for the creation of Live Videos.[4] The Wall Street Journal reported that Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations and media partnership for Facebook, stated that this was done “so we could get feedback from a variety of different organizations about what works and what doesn’t.” Facebook pushing the use of live video has also increased user engagement and reports that users are commenting 10 times more on live videos than regular videos.[5]

YouTube Live Video

YouTube, a Google subsidiary, was one of the pioneering sites for live video and integrated this feature into the desktop site in 2011. As the popularity of live video grew with other social media applications in 2016, the number of people watching live videos via YouTube increased by 80 percent. [6] Despite this, YouTube did not integrate live video into its mobile application until February of 2017, but unlike its competitors Facebook and Periscope, YouTube offers users who make live videos a cut of the ad revenues generated. [7]


Periscope, originally called Bounty, was founded in early 2014 then acquired by Twitter in 2015, and was launched the following month. By the end of the year, Periscope was named the iPhone App of the Year by Apple. Unlike Facebook Live, Periscope is still a stand-alone app and not fully incorporated into the Twitter app. Periscope also offers the ability to sketch while streaming and broadcast via GoPro.

Instagram Live Video

In 2016, Instagram released their new Live Video feature for all users. This allows a user to broadcast a live video stream to all of their followers, though the video can only be viewed while it is live, and disappears from the app once the user is finished streaming. This feature comes as an addition to the Stories section available to users, located at the top of the application. This "temporary" aspect of Live Video makes it very similar to how Snapchat Stories function[8], even though Snapchat does not yet allow users to live stream. Live Videos are distinguished from other Stories by a pink button with the word "LIVE" within it just above the user's name. In November of 2016[8], Instagram also added the feature for followers to comment or 'heart' another's Live Video, also in real-time. However, the messages only last as long as the video does.

Ethical Implications

Loss of Traditional Broadcast Revenue

People streaming from their phones can cause traditional broadcasting networks to lose out on potential revenue from viewers watching the same content via live video. For example, the championship boxing match between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao occurred on May 2, 2015, and was broadcast by HBO and Showtime, two networks that had exclusive rights to broadcast the event with up to a $100 pay-per-view fee.[9] This also fell shortly after the launches of live video applications Meerkat and Periscope. It was reported that many people in attendance were broadcasting footage of the fight on these applications to thousands of viewers which potentially led to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue. During the course of the fight, Periscope received 66 requests to take down these videos as they were streaming due to the piracy issues.[9]

Explicit Content

There are no laws that force social media sites to remove content that could be considered violent or explicit. Many sites, such as Facebook and Periscope, rely on users to report content that they see as inappropriate. Then, the company will review it and it will removed if it is deemed to not follow their content guidelines. Facebook defines this as videos that glorify violence as opposed to videos formed to raise awareness. Meanwhile, Periscope says that graphic, violent content is not allowed unless it is newsworthy.[10] There is not yet consistent guidelines between or within companies on how they deal with violent videos. As reported by the Wall Street Journal in late January of 2017, there had been at least 57 “violent or sensitive acts” streamed over live video in the past year. These include incidents such as the suicide of a 14-year-old girl streamed on Facebook[11], the kidnapping and beating of a disabled teenager in Chicago[12], a homicide[13], burglaries, and other similar acts. There is not yet a more efficient solution to have these videos removed, but Facebook is in the process of developing an artificial intelligence technology to detect violence in their live videos.[12] In the meantime, [13], Facebook is willing to comply with manually taking down reported content. They have also been willing to issue statements such as, “This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.”[14]

Facebook Live Incidents

During an incident in Baltimore County, Maryland, Facebook Live video captured a standoff between police and 23-year-old Korryn Gaines. Gaines was interacting with followers on Instagram and Facebook before streaming the incident live. Followers were commenting on her pages, "encouraging her to not comply with authorities"[15] Soon, Facebook shut down Gaines account and deleted all of her videos. Gaines was later shot and killed. She had a 5-year-old son and was known to be mentally unstable. In response, some questioned the troubling idea of Facebook deleting evidence.[16] The shutdown was in response to the live streamed death by police earlier that year. It amassed over 2.7 million views in one day.[17]

On April 16th of 2017, Steve Stephens drove to downtown Cleveland and went onto Facebook Live saying that he was going to commit a murder live for people watching. He soon had millions of viewers who watched as he murdered Robert Godwin Sr., 74. The video showed Stephens approaching Goodwin asking him to say a person’s name, then pulling out a gun and shooting the man. Afterward, Goodwin can be seen on the sidewalk, with a streak of what appears to be blood near his head. The video remained on Facebook for nearly 3 hours and was seen by millions before being removed[18] . Facebook faced heavy of backlash over the video and how long it took them to take it down after the event. [19]

Most recently, the deadly terrorist shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019 was Facebook live-streamed. The video of the shooting that killed 200 people was viewed over 4,000 times on Facebook before being removed.[20] Politicians have begun to urge tech giants to review their current policies surrounding online hate speech and monitoring for violent and inappropriate content in a timely manner to avoid future instances like this. These platforms have raised concern that they have become "digital incubators for some of the most deadly, racially motivated attacks around the world" due to the number of events that have been live-streamed or posted on these platforms. [21] Facebook is working to improve their AIs to detect this type of content and the expedited processing of reports from users. [22]

These instances have called into question issues with censorship, timing, and who is to blame in these situations. Philip Brey has written about embedded values in information technology and whether or not technology, like Facebook Live, has values embedded into it that "tend to denote or promote particular values and norms". [23] Supporters of this embedded values approach would argue that Facebook Live encourages people to perform, even if those performances are ethically bad, like in these instances. Those who disagree with this approach, however, would say that killers, like Steve Stephens, would murder whether or not Facebook Live existed.

See Also


  1. "History of Television" Wikipedia, 14 Feb. 2017.
  2. "Live Television" Wikipedia, 14 Feb. 2017
  3. Isaac, Mike. "With N.F.L. Deal, Twitter Live-Streams Its Ambitions" The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Perlberg, Steven and Deepa Seetharaman. Facebook Signs Deals With Media Companies, Celebrities for Facebook Live The Wall Street Journal, 15 Feb. 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Greenberg, Julia. Zuckerberg Really Wants You to Stream Live Video on Facebook Wired, 15 Feb. 2017.
  6. Murgia, Madhumita. YouTube live video views grow by 80% Financial Times, 19 Feb. 2017.
  7. Graham, Jefferson. YouTube takes on Facebook with mobile live USA Today, 19 Feb. 2017.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bell, Karissa. "Instagram Live Video Is Here." Mashable. Mashable, 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2017. <>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Rydbeck, Cara Ann Marr and Aaron P. Rubin Rolling with the punches: the fight over livestreaming Lexology, 10 Mar. 2017
  10. Mahtani, Shibani and Deepa Seetharaman Live Video Grows as Platform to Broadcast Violence The Wall Street Journal, 10 Mar. 2017
  11. Campo-Flores, Arian Another Live-Streamed Suicide Puts Spotlight on Social Media Ethics The Wall Street Journal, 10 Mar. 2017
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mahtani, Shibani and Deepa Seetharaman Cook County State’s Attorney Charges Four With Hate Crimes Related to Attack Posted on Facebook The Wall Street Journal, 10 Mar. 2017
  13. 13.0 13.1 Johnson, Alex, and E.D. Cauchi. "Manhunt in Cleveland after Killing Broadcast on Facebook Live." NBCUniversal News Group, 16 Apr. 2017. Web. 16 Apr. 2017. <>.
  14. Steer, Jen. "Facebook Issues Statement following Cleveland Murder Broadcasted Live." Fox 8 News, 16 Apr. 2017. Web. 16 Apr. 2017. <>.
  15. Ingram, Mathew, Facebook Shuts Down Live Stream of Shooting at Police Request
  16. McKesson, Deray, Twitter
  17. Ingram, Mathew, Facebook Live Streams the Death of a Black Man Shot by Police
  18. Yan, Holly, Cleveland Murder suspect found Dead
  19. Isaac, Mike, A Murder Posted on Facebook Prompts Outrage and Questions Over Responsibility
  20. Schwartz, M. 2019. Facebook Admits Mosque Shooting Video Was Viewed At Least 4,000 Times. NPR.
  21. Romm, T. 2019. Facebook and Google to be quizzed on white nationalism and political bias as Congress pushes dueling reasons for regulation. The Washington Post.
  22. Shaban, H. 2019. Facebook to reexamine how livestream videos are flagged after Christchurch shooting. The Washington Post.
  23. Brey, Philip, Values in Technology and Disclosive Computer Ethics