Live-Streaming Of Alleged Rape Shows Challenges Of Flagging Video In Real Time | KERA News

Live-Streaming Of Alleged Rape Shows Challenges Of Flagging Video In Real Time

Apr 19, 2016
Originally published on April 19, 2016 11:25 am

Updated at 12:24 p.m. ET, with Facebook statement

An 18-year-old woman in Ohio is being charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and a variant of distributing child pornography.

What led to this extraordinary list of alleged crimes? Live-streaming the alleged rape of her 17-year-old friend.

Prosecutors say Marina Lonina broadcast the incident on the Twitter-owned app Periscope. Lonina claims through her lawyer that she live-streamed the alleged rape because she was trying to get the man to stop.

But Franklin County, Ohio, prosecutor Ron O'Brien offered a different version.

"She continued to live-stream it and she told the police that she continued because she got caught up in the likes that were showing on her screen," he said.

"And she didn't call 911," he continued. "She giggled throughout."

O'Brien identified 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates as the alleged rapist and said all three appeared to be "under the influence. And at least the victim was highly intoxicated."

"You can hear the victim screaming, 'Stop,' 'Don't,' 'Please,' crying," O'Brien said.

Predictable Problems

Many of us have had the experience of fixating on our smartphone, waiting for reactions to things we share, hooked on every little notification. But here, that disconnect between what was allegedly happening in the room and what Lonina was paying attention to appears to be extreme.

Live video is the new selfie: Twitter's Periscope, Facebook Live and smaller platforms like YouNow and Veetle are all the rage.

Veetle chief technology officer Ethan Wang says the problems are predictable. He recalls an incident back in 2008 when a teenager live-streamed his own suicide. None of today's companies is investing in public safety, Wang said.

"People are more interested in making the platform more open, more available and closer to real time," he said. "And the trade-off here is you get undesirable things happening."

With still photos, there's technology — automated algorithms — that can help flag nudity or beheadings. Live video is different.

Algorithms can't sift through moving images the same way. They can't, for example, tell whether someone is waving a handgun or a smartphone. And no computer program can predict what live humans will do next.

Few Details On Countermeasures

Wang said you could in theory introduce a transmission delay of a few seconds — as some TV and radio stations do. But he says no Internet company would do that voluntarily.

"When you're streaming live video, there's this interactive component," he said. "If you put a 30-second delay in front of that, it makes it impossible for people to interact with the streamer."

Twitter declined to provide NPR with any details on how it enforces its policy against explicit content on Periscope. Facebook said it formed a team to review videos that users have flagged as inappropriate. But the team can't respond in real time, and the company declined to share details on how many employees work for the team or how many complaints they process.

In a statement, Facebook said: "We believe the vast majority of people are using Live to come together and share experiences in the moment with their friends and family, so we want the Live experience to be as immediate as possible. We encourage anyone watching a Live video to report violations of our Community Standards while they are watching; they don't have to wait until the Live broadcast is over."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, before this next story, I really do need to offer a warning. The next four minutes or so might not be suitable for younger listeners. The story takes place in Ohio. An 18-year-old woman there is being prosecuted for live-streaming the rape of her friend. The teenager admits broadcasting it with an app called Periscope. The crime raises questions about if and how tech companies might flag violent, explicit video footage. Those are questions most of the companies won't answer publicly. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Marina Lonina, age 18, claims that she live-streamed the rape because she was trying to get the rapist to stop.

RON O'BRIEN: But he didn't stop. And she didn't call 911. She giggled throughout.

SHAHANI: Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: She continued to live-stream it. And she told the police that she continued because she got caught up in the likes that were showing on her screen and the people who were watching.

SHAHANI: Caught up in the likes - Lonina live-streamed as 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates allegedly forced intercourse on her friend, a female minor age 17.

O'BRIEN: I think all three of them were under the influence, and at least the victim was highly intoxicated.

SHAHANI: At several moments, it looked like Gates was trying to hide from the camera.

O'BRIEN: He pulled a sheet up over his head and up over the victim's head.

SHAHANI: The victim was by no means passed out. O'Brien says it's clear she was trying to resist the whole time.

O'BRIEN: ...Because you can hear the victim screaming stop, don't, please, crying.

SHAHANI: Many of us have had the experience of fixating on our smartphone, waiting for reactions to things we share, hooked on every little notification. But here, that disconnect between what was happening in the room and what the defendant was paying attention to appears to be extreme. Prosecutor O'Brien doesn't have an exact number for how many of her Periscope friends liked or commented on the rape.

O'BRIEN: You know, I didn't count them. The tape is about 10 minutes long, but the screen was popping continuously through most of the video itself.

SHAHANI: Live video is all the rage - the new selfie - Twitter's Periscope, Facebook's Live and smaller platforms like YouNow and Veetle. Veetle's chief technology officer Ethan Wang says the problems are predictable. He recalls back in 2008, when a person live-streamed his own suicide. He says, candidly, none of today's companies is investing in public safety.

ETHAN WANG: People are more interested in making the platform more open, more available and closer to real time. And the trade-off here is you get undesirable things happening.

SHAHANI: With still photos, there's technology - automated algorithms - that can help flag nudity or beheadings. Live video is different. Algorithms can't sift through moving images the same way - can't tell if someone is waving a handgun or a smartphone. And no computer program can predict what live humans will do next. Wang says you could, in theory, introduce a transmission delay of a few seconds, like some TV and radio stations do. But he says no Internet company would do that voluntarily.

WANG: When you're streaming live video, there's this interactive component. If you put a 30-second delay in front of that, it makes it impossible for people to interact with the streamer.

SHAHANI: Twitter declined to provide NPR with any details on how it enforces its policy against explicit content on Periscope. Facebook says it formed a team to review videos that users have flagged as inappropriate, but it can't respond in real time. And the company declined to share details on how big the team is or how many complaints it processes. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.