The Dangers of Live-Streaming Video

We’ve reached the point at which almost everyone has a camera on their mobile device, and companies are jumping at the opportunity to provide a video chat solution.

From grade school students and college lecturers to athletes and child predators, nearly anyone can live video chat with very little barrier to entry. Connecting with video is easier than ever, and it will only get easier.

The leading trend with video chat apps is the ability to move the interaction from one-to-one to one-to-many through a live-stream, publicly-visible experience. Snapchat, Facebook and Periscope (owned by Twitter) are a few companies that have implemented live-streaming, but the list is seemingly endless.

Herein lies the danger: All of the content moderation in the world can’t stop a live-stream.

We’ve all seen newscasters cut back from a live feed to the unprepared talking head when a situation goes awry. There is no “oops” button with live-streaming. The broadcasters and the viewers are experiencing the interaction in real time with no filter. Anything can happen, and nobody can stop it. Like the terrible alleged live-streamed suicide in Paris, some broadcasters will stream anything.

Viewing a live-stream isn’t the only risk. Children and teenagers can also generate the live-stream, which allows access to nearly anyone. For child predators and others intent on taking advantage of someone, live-streaming is a dream come true. They’re able to view the person in an unedited and intimate moment, with little or no incriminating data.

Live-streaming is no place for an unsupervised child. Even with supervision, there can be no promise of safety.

Sure, live-streaming has an upside. People attending presidential rallies and news organizations live-streaming events like C2E2 are great examples. Attendees at historical events, connecting with friends or the wider world on Facebook, can share amazing experiences that generations before could not fathom.

Like many apps we discuss in our Social Network Spotlight series, live-streaming apps are being used in an appropriate manner, but potential risks arise when the content is raw and current. If children and teenagers must use these applications, it should be under constant supervision and with an acute awareness of the potential risks.

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