One day into the search for the so-called Facebook killer, many social media users are calling on companies like Facebook to address the “public safety risk” that the instant video platforms may have unintentionally created.
Steve Stephens, 37, is wanted for aggravated murder in the shooting death of Robert Godwin, Sr. around 2 p.m. on E. 93rd Street. Stephens posted a graphic video of Godwin’s death on his Facebook page and claimed to have killed a dozen others.
Private investigator and criminal justice expert Dr. Ross Riggs told News 5 the “phenomenon” of offenders documenting violent crimes is nothing new.
“So often they are looking for that notoriety, they are looking for that great moment in the sun,” he explained.
For decades, self-proclaimed serial killers have been sending confession letters to newspapers and police departments documenting their crimes.
But Riggs said that now technology is making the situations more dangerous.
“They want to shock society and now they’ve come up with a new way,” he said.
The incident in Cleveland is just the latest in a series of serious and often times violent crimes that have been captured or streamed live on sites like Facebook.
Now Riggs is worried about copycats.
“Some think, ‘I can one up him, I can do better than he did, I can make it more theatrical’ or whatever and yes, you can probably guarantee that there will be copy cats out there,” he said.
Three hours after the video was posted, Facebook removed the post and Stephens page. However, multiple versions of the raw, unedited version had not been removed from other Facebook pages as of Monday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Facebook told News 5 that they are currently working to remove instances of the full video.
In many cases, context and degree are taken into consideration when it comes to graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In some cases the content is allowed is they are condemning it or raising awareness. Facebook may place a warning screen in the front of the content or limit the visibility to adults only.
The manhunt for Steve Stephens
Stephens is described as being just over 6 feet tall, weighing about 244 pounds. He is bald with a full beard. The FBI is also assisting in the search.
Cleveland police confirmed to News 5 Monday that Stephens had a concealed carry permit.
Police say the suspect's vehicle is a white Ford Fusion with temporary tag E363630.