LSU professor calls violent viral videos side effect of digital age

LSU professor, Steve Bien-Aime, and WAFB's Scottie Hunter (Source: WAFB)
LSU professor, Steve Bien-Aime, and WAFB's Scottie Hunter (Source: WAFB)
Steve Stephens (Source: WOIO)
Steve Stephens (Source: WOIO)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Facebook post that wreaked havoc on the comfort of Easter Sunday, a man shooting a 74-year-old then broadcasting the horrific deed online for friends, followers, and others to witness, is sparking a bigger conversation about the prominence of violent viral videos on social media.

The man who confessed to the crime, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, is now on the run, igniting a nationwide manhunt which has paralyzed the online community and left many speechless.

While he blamed his ex-girlfriend and mother for the killing, LSU communications professor Steve Bien-Aime says though he is not a psychologist, he believes something more is wrong with the alleged social media killer. "It's a person who most likely has thought out what he or she is going to be doing and likely would have a bigger grievance," said Bien-Aime.

It's not the first time a senseless act of violence has stained the timelines of social media users.

Two journalists were killed back in 2015. The video was then posted online by the accused gunman. Four teens in Chicago were arrested after streaming the brutal beating of an 18-year-old with special needs in January, and another video of an Alabama man surfaced in August of last year, showing him pouring alcohol on a turtle before setting the creature on fire. The turtle in the video did survive.

Bien-Aime says those who post such content may want attention, but he believes that alone may not be the only motivation. "It's going to be someone who may want to send a message to a wider audience and perhaps also wants to be remembered for something," Bien- Aime added.

The days of violent viral videos are a side effect of living in the digital age and something Bien-Aime says makes it so easy for those who want to carry out a horrific act to do so with a captive audience. "It might have been ten years ago they put it on a website they built, but now people can just go on their phones, tablet, and just post on social media," said Bien-Aime.

Bien-Aime admits while it's hard to get away from random acts of violence creeping onto your page, it is the reality users live in. "But we have to begin to ask ourselves what type of media landscape do we want," Bien-Aime added.

Justin Osofsky, vice president of Global Operations, released the following statement about the video, saying the company should do more in instances like this most recent viral video.

We disabled the suspect's account within 23 minutes of receiving the first report about the murder video, and two hours after receiving a report of any kind. But we know we need to do better.

To read the full statement, click here.

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