What the Tech? Why Do Social Media Posts about Violence Appear to Go Unnoticed?

Why are social media networks quick to pull posts about COVID-19 and right-wing/left-wing politics, yet people who use social media to talk about shooting up schools, go unnoticed until it is too late? That is a fair question and many people are asking that in the days following two deadly mass shootings.

Some of the more popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have algorithms and safety tools to discover and flag public posts but there are now hundreds of social media networks that are used by Generation Z that people of other ages have never even heard of. The shooter in Uvalde, Texas reportedly used the Yubo app. The Buffalo, New York
shooter posted his plans on Discord and live-streamed his attack on Twitch.

Social media platforms monitor posts with both algorithms and human moderators but with hundreds of thousands of posts per day from millions of users, it is difficult to keep up with all of the posts.

Automatic bans of photos of guns are problematic since responsible gun owners post their photos for other enthusiasts to see. On Instagram, there are dozens of hashtags encouraging users to show off their guns. Removing public posts and photos has been a freedom of speech issue.

Just like the general public law enforcement is not allowed to view private posts unless an undercover officer is either being sent the posts directly or if they are a member of the chat group. Social media companies work with law enforcement but do not alert police about suspicious activity.

Facebook, for example, responds to police requesting information on suspects if there is a warrant. The social network also expedites that information in certain cases when there is a known threat to public safety.

Messages and chats are encrypted meaning they are kept only on the phones sending and receiving the posts. The messages never sit on the social network servers.

Effective monitoring of social media is left up to users. Here’s what you can do if you run across disturbing posts or messages on any platform.

Take a screenshot of the post or chat. Don’t just report it to the social network, report it to the police and show them the posts. Report it to the FBI through its online tip tool.

Just as you’d do in an airport or public place, if you see something, say something.


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