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Facebook’s New Anti-Violence Plan Will Sometimes Leave Up Disturbing Videos To Help Authorities

Facebook takes the fight to violence, not just violent content.

Posted on May 3, 2017, at 8:28 p.m. ET

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook is adding 3,000 workers to fight violence on its platform, and their mandate isn’t simply to remove violent content.

Facebook may not immediately remove all violent live videos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during his company’s first quarter earnings call Wednesday. The company will also work with law enforcement to prevent violence, he said, even if it means risking airing the footage.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is not just about taking the content down, but also about helping people when they’re in need on the platform,” Zuckerberg said.

Law enforcement recently prevented someone from killing themselves after Facebook alerted them to a suicidal broadcast, Zuckerberg said. In that case, authorities communicated with the person through the live video itself, and prevented them from going through with the act. For Facebook, a social giant of 1.94 billion users, using its power to simply remove violent content is not enough. It wants to prevent the violence itself.

Facebook’s 3,000 new content moderators, combined with the 4,500 moderators it already has, won’t be fighting violence alone. They will be enlisting Facebook’s artificial intelligence as well. Zuckerberg noted that even with 7,500 people scanning Facebook’s posts for possible violence, “we’ll never be able to look at everything.” Artificial intelligence, he suggested, could fill in the gap, though its presence may not be felt for years.

“Right now there are certain things that AI can do in terms of understanding text and understanding what’s in a photo and what’s in a video,” Zuckerberg said, noting that the technology was likely years away from working effectively. “Over time, for sure, more AI will do this.”

AI, in many cases, is still far from the romanticized treatment it gets in the press and in film. “This is still very far from where we want it to be,” Facebook’s head of AI research Yann LeCun told BuzzFeed News in a recent interview.

The highly-publicized violence on Facebook Live did little to scare Facebook’s advertising customers away in the first quarter of 2017. The company brought in more than $8 billion in revenue, up from $5.3 billion in the same quarter last year.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.