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Professor Mark Skilton from Warwick Business School comments on live streaming from German synagogue attack

Following reports that the tragic shooting that took place at a synagogue in Halle, Germany was live streamed online by the attacker, Professor Mark Skilton from Warwick Business School has commented on managing the challenge of balancing privacy and security concerns with the online providers that provide these services.

Professor Skilton said: “There is mounting academic evidence that today's social media amplification of messages from individuals and groups has no governance of a one-to-many nature currently. Add to this the ‘psychological distance’ that large amounts of evidence show online trolls, bullies and narcissists are able to use to exploit the vulnerable to groom or manipulate, it is just the tip of the iceberg of regulatory problems facing governments.

“Counter to this is free speech and rights to be heard, and the personal privacy that defines a functioning democratic society, that this German Synagogue hate attack has so mercilessly exploited online - yet again, nothing is done by the social media platforms.

“Back in May 2019, Facebook told us they culled another three billion fake profiles between October 2018 and March 2019 and more than seven million ‘hate speech’ posts were removed(1). This is all ‘after the fact’ and irrelevant in the context of even one life lost or damaged. We are all collateral damage in the social media empire's desire to hold onto their lot.

“The technical problem is clearly out of hand currently with the size of databases and connections. Apple claim the moral arguments of ‘privacy-first’(2) as the will of the people that they represent, none of whom are elected or challenged effectively. But lawmakers thrash about and have to pick up the pieces with comfort and indignation.

“Technically we will continue to suffer this way until there is a real-time kill switch on devices that stop streaming content, but the rights and other issues complicate this as this too needs to be preserved.

“In the physical world, there may lie the answer in controlling access and behaviour to prevent these attacks - no guns, no access etc, - but again, we lose freedoms as a trade-off for safety.”

[1] Facebook: Another three billion fake profiles culled 23 May 2019

[2] Apple versus FBI case

10 October 2019

For interviews contact:

Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


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