By John Ramos

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) – The New Zealand shooter streamed his bloody rampage live, as it was happening, but Facebook now says not a single person reported what they were seeing.

Facebook says fewer than 200 people actually watched it in real time, but the company says no one reported the violent content to them until 12 minutes after it ended.

People out walking in Walnut Creek had different ideas about what that meant.

“Yeah, it says that our society is really self-absorbed,” said Bencia resident Charlotte Cannizzaro, “and we care more about drama than helping people.”

Concord resident Doug Gavin thought viewers may not have understood what they were watching.

“I think someone who’s 16 would have just thought, well, that’s another video game,” said Gavin.

“You would hate to think they knew it was really happening and they didn’t report it,” said Becky Collins from Vacaville. “Because that doesn’t bode well for people.”

But Clinical Psychologist Dr. Scott Lingen says what seems so callous may just be a case of people being human.

“This is a well-established social psychological phenomenon called the ‘by-stander effect,’” Dr. Lingen said. “Or some refer to it as the Genovese Syndrome.”

That’s a reference to a young woman named Kitty Genovese who, in 1964, was stabbed to death on a New York sidewalk as 38 people looked on from their windows. No one called police.

Dr. Lingen says the rule is, the more people who witness an incident, the less likely it is that anybody will action. In clinical circles it’s called “diffusion of responsibility.”

“This is magnified even further by the Internet, Dr. Lingen said.

“So, people are watching this horrific event but the first thing that comes to their mind is, well, thousands of other people must be watching this, I’m sure somebody is taking some kind of action. Sadly, that’s often not the case.”

Dr. Lingen says viewing live events on a screen tends to de-personalize things and that may also explain why no one clicked the “report” button to let Facebook know what was happening on its site.

The original video was replayed about 4.000 times before it was removed from the platform.

Facebook says it has removed or blocked more than 1.5 million copies of the video, as well. The social media giant says it is using artificial intelligence technology to detect both video and audio of the shootings in its efforts to keep it off the platform.

Comments (2)
  1. Chuck Lantz says:

    The Genovese Syndrome was defined over fifty years ago, so why is it newsworthy that people are still mindlessly watching tragedies unfold in real time, without lifting a finger to help stop them by calling for help?

    Expecting YouTube or any other video platform to accept a healthy and well-deserved percentage of the blame, and to do something about it, is a waste of time, since YouTube’s after-the-fact “efforts” are like a store calculating their shoplifting losses by checking their inventory at the end of the day. All such video platforms must change their policies by only allowing moderated live video to be posted, at least until the poster has established trust.

    Yes, that will cost the platforms a ton of money, but they MAKE a ton of money. And they make most of it by ignoring common sense in their expectations that all their users have and use common sense.