There’s not a ton of information on this, but 20-year-old India Kirksey of Cincinnati is accused of allegedly molesting a 4-year-old boy while livestreaming the act on Periscope. A number of media outlets say that Kirksey is a mother but no one is saying whether or not the victim is her child. Her family is saying that Kirksey has special needs, whether or not these needs mean that Kirksey is mentally incapable of telling the difference between right and wrong remains to be seen. The crime was reported by someone in Texas who had allegedly stumbled across the livestream.
While I’m not absolving Kirksey for her alleged actions, if I had to hazard a guess I would say there was someone on the other end of the livestream who probably encouraged Kirksey into her actions. Every time I’ve ever posted a story about a mother who molested one of their children, be it recorded or not, it was usually at the encouragement of a boyfriend. I’d be very surprised if we don’t hear news about a second arrest in this case.
I’ll post more details as they become available.
Recently mobile livestreaing app Periscope announced that they will be enlisting users to be their moderators when it comes to commenters leaving abusive comments. As the Forbes article I linked to points out, this is not a good idea. I would go as far as calling it the inmates running the asylum.
I’m not saying that all Periscope users are obnoxious trolls but we’re talking about the venue where watchers were giving likes to an alleged livestreamed rape. In addition to that, if history is any indicator, leaving moderation to the users always ends up in the moderators being the most abusive. Craigslist’s ‘community policing’ comes to mind. The classifieds site claims that they can’t afford to hire moderators and let the users flag ads that violate their terms of service, except that’s not what the users do. Instead they use the flagging ability as their personal harassment tool. A number of business will flag the ads of competitors or racists will flag any ad that’s not in English among other abuses of the privilege. Let’s also not forget all the ads for illegal items and services that never get flagged.
While giving users who stream more robust tools to moderate their own streams is commendable, letting stream comments be subject to mob rule will only make the experience not only less enjoyable but could potentially be a business killer for Periscope.
Gates and Lonina
A lot has been made in the news today about a story out of Ohio where a woman has been indicted for livestreaming the alleged rape of her 17-year-old friend on the mobile livestreaming app Periscope. 18-year-old Marina Alexeevna Lonina is accused of broadcasting the alleged rape of her female friend by 29-year-old Raymond Boyd Gates. A lot should be made of the story as it shows just how little we care for the lives of others in our society as we take joy in transmitting the brutal violation of a young girl. However while the media seems to be focused on Lonina let’s not lose sight of the fact that Boyd is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl. He is equally if not more culpable then his cohort.
Unfortunately this is not the first online broadcast of a sexual assault. Back before livestreaming apps there was a website called Stickam. It allowed users to host a chat room while livestreaming from their webcams. It had a private room feature that allowed just about anything to be broadcast without moderation. In 2009 Johnathon Richard Hock of Surprise, Arizona, was arrested for broadcasting the sexual assault of a female friend on Stickam. Instead of coming to the defense of the victim many members of the Stickam community took up the defense of Hock instead. Hock was eventually sentenced to a paltry 2 1/2 years behind bars and Stickam has since closed its doors. The only difference between now and then is that now the cameras are smaller, more portable and more ubiquitous. I’m personally surprised this hasn’t happened more often. At least in Periscope’s defense it does have a policy against streaming explicit content.
But getting back to my original point while we’re being outraged at Lonina for broadcasting the rape let’s not allow the actions of the actual rapist be lost in the noise.
UPDATE 4/15/2016: The pair have pleaded not guilty however this is how shallow we’ve become as a society…
In court Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Lonina told police she was Periscoping the alleged incident to keep her friend from being assaulted, but got caught up by all the likes the she was getting. He says at one point she even asked her followers “What should I do now?”
If you have to ask what should you do while your friend is being raped then you need to be removed from society and anybody who ‘liked’ this on Periscope should join her.
UPDATE 10/26/2016: Two weeks ago, Gates was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to rape. Lonina is scheduled to appear in court in mid-December.
UPDATE 2/14/2017: Lonina was sentenced yesterday to nine months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of obstructing justice.