With more than 1,000 voyeurs watching through a live video sharing app called Periscope, a 19-year-old French woman jumped in front of a train south of Paris on Tuesday, taking her own life. It is the latest in a string of tragedies and crimes broadcast through the app, including a rape in Ohio in February and an assault on a drunken man in France last month.
The woman who committed suicide in France has not been named. Before going to the train station, she posted multiple times on social media about her intentions, and also said that she had been raped, naming the assailant, according to Le Point newspaper. Those claims are being "treated with caution," local police said.
Those watching the scene unfold showered the Periscope feed with "likes" and comments, most of which seemed to be lighthearted in nature, and did not take the woman's threats of self-harm seriously. Although Periscope immediately took down the video, it has numerous mirrors on YouTube, with the suicide itself blacked out. In the recording, the woman says, “The video I am doing right now is not made to create the buzz but rather to make people react, to open minds, and that’s it.”
At the end of the video, her phone is picked up by what looks like an emergency worker, and the train is visible behind him. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
It is perhaps inevitable that live video apps will be used to document crimes, assaults and suicides, but it is perhaps most worrisome that many people watch those acts and, it could be argued, encourage them with "likes" and comments. In last month's case in Ohio, in which a 17-year-old girl filmed her friend being raped by a man they met a day earlier at a mall, a prosecutor said that the girl doing the filming just "got caught up in the likes." She and the alleged rapist have denied the charges, but the prosecutor also noted that the girl filming never called 911 and can be heard "giggling and laughing" during the video.
Twitter bought Periscope in 2015, and has told news agencies that it did not comment on individual accounts. The app has more than 10 million users and the equivalent of 40 years' worth of footage is viewed every day. It is gaining popularity in France, where protesters demanding labor reforms have used it to film their clashes with police.
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