Chicago police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a 15 year old girl that was recorded on Facebook Live and watched by “dozens” of viewers.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the alleged victim was reported missing on Sunday by her family, after disappearing after her uncle dropped her off at home after church. On Monday, her uncle Reginald King says he saw her on a Facebook Live stream, where she was being sexually assaulted by at least six attackers. He was alerted to the video’s existence by another teen, the Tribune reported. “This is one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen a kid do,” King said. “There were adults who saw this. None of them had the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, I gotta call someone.’ ”
One of Facebook Live’s features is a tiny counter on the screen telling the viewer how many people are watching. The Washington Post reports that according to police, the video itself was viewed by as many as 40 people. Speaking to WGN-TV, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson noted how “disturbing” it was that people watched the alleged assault without calling 911 to report it.
It wasn’t the Facebook Live stream that brought the attack to the attention of the authorities –it was the alleged victim’s mother. The AP reports that she approached Johnson on Monday, telling him that her child had been missing and “showed him screen grab photos of the alleged assault.” Johnson asked Facebook to take the video down and thankfully, they complied.
Facebook Live has been a powerful tool in the past. In July 2016, Diamond Reynolds streamed the aftermath of her fiancé Philando Castile’s shooting by police in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, which brought national attention to the case almost immediately. But just last month, the social network took over two weeks to remove the video of a 12-year old girl’s suicide, which was streamed via Live.me and shared to her Facebook page. The video made its way to YouTube, where it was subsequently taken down, but a version of it still circulated on Facebook for two weeks, despite repeated pleas for its removal.
When asked to comment on the incident, a Facebook spokesman confirmed to the Post that the video had been removed, but didn’t address the incident specifically. “Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook,” he said. “We take our responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and will remove videos that depict sexual assault and are shared to glorify violence.” The spokesman also noted that teams work “around the clock” to monitor Facebook Live content that’s “reported by users.”
Police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that investigators located the missing girl and reunited her with her family Tuesday. The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made.
Correction: The post has been updated to state that Philando Castile was shot in Falcon Heights, which is a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, not Minneapolis. Jezebel regrets the error.