The bystander effect is a socio-psychological phenomenon whereby people offer a victim no means of help when other people are present. The idea is that each witness may think, "well, one of the other witnesses may do something to help the victim."
It is not clear, however, whether the intention of the viewers was more sinister.
The mother of the rape victim literally had to track down Johnson as he was leaving a meeting on the city’s West Side, spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. She showed him screen-grabbed photos of her daughter, reporting that her daughter had been missing since Sunday. Only then did police authorities initiate a full-scale investigation and request Facebook to take the video down. Facebook complied with the Chicago PD’s request.
"Forty or so live viewers and no one thought to call authorities," Guglielmi remarked. The superintendent was "visibly upset," he added, upon viewing the film of a young teenage girl being sexually abused.
Facebook has not replied to a request for comment regarding what measures it is taking to prevent Facebook Live from being used for criminal activity, whether it is considering adding a feature that would allow viewers to report crimes to local authorities, or whether these types of incidents have caused Facebook to rethink whether Facebook Live should continue to be offered to users.
Update: "Crimes like this are hideous," a Facebook spokesperson told Sputnik News. "We do not allow that kind of content on Facebook." Maintaining safety is something Facebook takes "very seriously," and as such the company holds a policy of removing videos "that depict sexual assault and are shared to glorify violence."
While Facebook could not comment further on the specifics of the case, there is a way for viewers to report something suspicious during Facebook Live broadcasts. Facebook also encourages viewers to contact police officials directly if they see something appropriate for the attention of law enforcement bodies.