New Zealand attack shows that as A.I. filters get smarter, so do violators

Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are quick to share stats on how artificial intelligence filters are improving, but the aftermath of last week’s shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand made gaps in the system terrifyingly obvious. Videos shot from the shooter’s point of view were uploaded to social media in numbers at least in the hundred thousand range after a copy of the original was posted to a file-sharing platform called 8chan.

The attack on two mosques in Christchurch left 50 dead and another 50 wounded, according to the authorities. The 28-year-old shooter wore a helmet-mounted camera and livestreamed the shootings in a way that some are saying was “designed for maximum spread on social media.” YouTube’s chief product officer, Neal Mohan, says the shooting was uploaded faster, with more videos, than previous incidents.

Three days later, and social media platforms were still struggling to keep copies of the 17-minute video off the networks. YouTube temporarily erred on the side of caution and disabled the human review part of the process meant to identify videos falsely mislabeled by the platform’s A.I. system as a violation of terms. The change is still ongoing, and YouTubers who believe their videos were miscategorized are encouraged to file for reinstatement. Some search functions also remain disabled.

While YouTube didn’t share exact numbers of the uploads, Facebook says it removed 1.5 million. About 80 percent of those, 1.2 million, were blocked at upload before ever making it onto the platform, while another 300,000 were removed within the first 24 hours after posting. The live video saw fewer than 200 views, the company said, and the video uploaded by the shooter saw around 400 views before being removed. No users reported the video until 29 minutes after the shooter started livestreaming. The platform deleted the suspected shooter’s account on both Facebook and Instagram and banned the user.

Some of social media’s past efforts to keep violence and hate out worked — like the 1.3 million videos that never uploaded to Facebook. YouTube’s previous mistakes that allowed violent videos into the search suggestions didn’t appear to come into play, and users searching for the incident were redirected towards news coverage of the incident instead.

But as the videos numbering in the hundreds of thousands show, the A.I. designed to recognize offending videos isn’t foolproof. Many networks use what’s called hashing to prevent mass uploads by recognizing when the same video is uploaded more than once. But according to The Washington Post, some users have been able to bypass the hashing by shortening the video, adding logos, or even using an effect that made the real-life event look like a video game. While the original video was removed, the networks struggled with “remixes” of the livestream.

Facebook expanded its hashing technology to try to catch more variations on the video, adding audio hashing to the process. Networks that are part of with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism — which includes Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Microsoft — added variations of the video to a database, allowing other networks to prevent the same uploads. Facebook says the group together added around 800 variations of the video to the database.

“This was a tragedy that was almost designed for the purpose of going viral. We’ve made progress, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work ahead of us, and this incident has shown that, especially in the case of more viral videos like this one, there’s more work to be done,” Mohan told The Washington Post.

Facebook didn’t comment on why 20 percent of videos that went live on the network weren’t caught at upload. “We continue to work around the clock to remove violating content using a combination of technology and people,” Facebook New Zealand representative Mia Garlick stated in a tweet. “Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we’re also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content.”

Reddit and Twitter also removed related content from their platforms, but didn’t share related statistics. “We are continuously monitoring and removing any content that depicts the tragedy, and will continue to do so in line with the Twitter rules,” Twitter Safety tweeted. “We are also in close coordination with New Zealand law enforcement to help in their investigation.”

Updated on March 19 with additional details from Facebook.


After controversial video, China bans ‘Leica’ on social media

A video that referenced Tiananmen Square got the name of the camera company Leica banned from the social media platform Weibo. Leica says the video wasn't an officially sanctioned promotion.
Home Theater

Don't need sports or local channels? Philo can save you some cash

Philo is an affordable live TV streaming service, with an impressive channel list and feature set. With more hardware support, unlimited DVR, and greatly improved TV Everywhere features, the service is now even easier to recommend.

These are the key settings to change on the LG G8 ThinQ smartphone

The LG G8 ThinQ is finally available. There are a lot of settings turned off by default that may be useful in improving the experience of using the phone. We've rounded up 11 key settings for you to change on the G8.
Smart Home

Oh, Zuck, no! Facebook rumored to be creating a voice assistant to rival Alexa

Facebook hasn't been a big player in the smart speaker market, but that may be changing: The social media giant is reportedly working on a digital assistant to compete against Alexa and others.
Social Media

How to download Instagram Stories on iOS, Android, and desktop

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.
Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went down worldwide for 2 hours this morning

Chaos erupted on the internet this morning, as Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp all went down from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 9 a.m. Thousands of users were unable to access the sites or send or receive Whatsapp messages.

Skype screen sharing for mobile will let you share your swipes on dating apps

Skype is prepping the launch of screen sharing for mobile so you can share your swipes on dating apps, shop with buddies, or, perhaps, show a PowerPoint presentation to coworkers. It's in beta just now, but anyone can try it.
Social Media

Facebook toys with mixing Stories and News Feed into one swipeable carousel

Facebook's News Feed could look a lot like Stories if a prototype the social media giant is working on rolls out to users. The design change mixes Stories and News Feed posts into a full-screen slideshow that users swipe left to navigate.
Social Media

No more moon showers as Facebook Messenger’s dark mode gets official rollout

Facebook Messenger launched a dark mode last month, but to activate it you had to message the crescent moon to someone. Now it's been rolled out officially, and it can be accessed in a far more sensible way — via settings.

Twitter has revealed a launch date for its handy hide replies features

Twitter has revealed a launch date for a feature that lets users hide replies to their tweets. The hope is that it will help the original poster filter out offensive or irrelevant content from conversation threads.
Social Media

Facebook says it unintentionally uploaded email contacts of 1.5 million users

Facebook says that over the last two years it unintentionally uploaded the email contacts of 1.5 million users as they signed up to the social networking service. The process has ended and the email addresses are being deleted.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.

Photography News: Instagram’s disappearing likes, the best photos of the year

In this week's Photography News, see why Instagram is testing a version that excludes the number of likes a post gets. Also, see the impressive winners from two photography contests and the latest features coming to the Fujifilm X-T3.

Earn more likes on your photos with the best cameras for Instagram

Looking to snap better Instagrams? Instagram doesn't demand high-resolution files, but upgrading your camera can deliver better bokeh and low-light quality. Here our the best cameras for Instagram.