MIAMI—A teenage girl in Miami Gardens, Fla., committed suicide early Sunday morning while streaming live on Facebook, the latest disturbing incident to be spread via this burgeoning—and largely uncharted—broadcast medium.
The death of 14-year-old Nakia Venant is the latest among dozens of violent, criminal or otherwise antisocial acts presented in real time in the past year and offers a sobering reminder of the challenges confronting technology companies that are investing heavily in live video.
Nakia was broadcasting live from a bathroom in her foster home when she sought to hang herself using a scarf attached to a shower door frame, according to an incident report by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Several witnesses observed the incident online, the agency said.
Though she was in the care of a foster family, her foster parents were asleep at the time, according to the Miami Gardens Police Department.
“We are absolutely horrified and devastated by the news of this young girl’s death,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “We will do everything we can to support this family and all those who cared for her as they begin to heal from this tragedy.”
Nakia’s suicide came in the wake of the live-streamed suicide of another young girl in Cedartown, Ga., in December. Earlier this month, four young African-Americans allegedly attacked a disabled white teenager in Chicago and shouted antiwhite obscenities while streaming live. They were charged with kidnapping and hate crimes.
In the past year, at least 57 violent or sensitive acts—including shootings, burglaries and beatings—have been transmitted through live-video platforms, including Facebook, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of incidents reported by news outlets world-wide.
The spate of incidents raises thorny questions, said Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. While Facebook Inc. and other technology companies likely don’t have much legal responsibility, she said, they have an ethical obligation to consider the potential harm their products pose.
“We need to have a conversation about what the role is” of technologies like live-streaming, she said. “How much are products like Facebook Live encouraging people to commit these acts?”
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company takes its responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and works with organizations around the world to provide assistance for people in distress. “We’re very saddened by this tragedy,” she said of Sunday’s suicide.
The spokeswoman said the company has teams working around the clock to review content reported by users and has systems to ensure that sensitive content is dealt with quickly. She added that users can flag violations during a live broadcast and that the company suggests people contact law enforcement if needed.
Friends described Nakia Venant as funny and good-natured, but said she grappled with problems, including bullying over her Haitian heritage at school.
On Saturday night, Nakia began broadcasting live, according to Petula Burks, a spokeswoman for the city of Miami Gardens. At some point, a friend watching the live-stream grew alarmed and called 911, but the police arrived too late.
When officers showed up at the home, they found Nakia hanging from the shower frame, according to Ms. Burks. Police and first responders tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate her. She was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
[Source:-Wall Street Journal]