OPINION Privacy commissioner John Edwards eliminated the explicit tweets he published over the weekend in which he labeled Facebook "morally bankrupt pathological liars" and criticized the company for allowing "the live streaming of suicides, rapes and murders" .
Edwards said he deleted the tweets because they were "causing distraction" and led to a "toxic and uninformed" debate.
He refused an interview, but spokesman Charles Mabbett said that the tweets had not been canceled in response to feedback or threats from Facebook.
The tensions between Facebook and Edwards have been increasing for months, with Edwards appearing frustrated by an excessive position with respect to its jurisdiction over the activities of the social media company.
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Which has boiled up in the wake of the Christchurch shootings, broadcast live on Facebook, with videos of atrocities then widely and repeatedly posted on Facebook and other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube, which have all struggled to identify and remove the movie.
Mabbett said that Edwards wanted Facebook to "at least suspend the live-streaming until it had a way to prevent a repetition of how it was used by the Christchurch gunslinger" – although Mabbett said Edwards had no opinion on how exactly it could be obtained.
Facebook spokesman Ben McConaghy says company representatives met with Edwards last week to discuss his concerns and has since provided updates to his office.
The company has not ruled out making changes to the way it handles live streams, so it could be "watching this space".
But Facebook also pointed out that it was not the live-streaming video, as such, that brought the video to be widely viewed.
Less than 200 people watched the live stream of Christchurch shootings on Facebook, Vice President Guy Rosen said last month.
But it is a plausible hypothesis that millions of people around the world have seen it since.
The video seems to have spread mainly following extremist sympathizers who have created new copies of the video that they have repeatedly optimized and republished on social media platforms to evade their automated defenses.
Separately, the video was also shared by people who posted links to the social media video. It is not the video itself, but links to nefarious foreign websites where it could be viewed.
Obviously, if the video of the atrocities had never been transmitted live or otherwise sent by the killer, then the sharing of the video could not have taken place.
But there are dozens of popular online services that facilitate live video streaming and it is also possible for people to use their own software to play streaming video directly to a website that hosts it or to a website they themselves create.
Frankly, sending video without live-streaming via e-mail could prove to be an "effective" way to distribute it.
This means that even if Facebook Live, Twitch and Periscope of Twitter completely shut down tomorrow, it would be optimistic to think that it would solve the horrible and relatively new perspective of what is called "terrorism performance".
Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees executives wrote an open letter to Facebook, Google and Twitter shortly after the shoot.
He urged the three social media giants to "urgently discuss" a solution to the video problem as the live footage of Christchurch footage uploaded and shared on their platforms.
But the letter did not provide suggestions on any concrete steps that companies thought social media companies should take.
Spark Andrew Pirie spokesman said today that the three companies that wrote the letter had "some commitment" from Google and Facebook "which at least recognizes some of the problems addressed in our letter".
"It was useful to better understand the complexities of the problems as they see them, but we did not make any specific requests," he said.
All this does not mean that it is excusable to raise your hands and say that nothing can be done.
But the problem – and the possible solutions – must be defined more clearly.
If it is impossible to prevent the distribution of videos of future terrorist attacks, a better reporting tool for social media users and faster action on their part would be helpful if they delete questionable videos and links.
It is also easy to imagine that Facebook and other social media companies could be pressured to delay the publication of all videos that are uploaded or shared on their platforms (not broadcast live) in the immediate future of any future atrocities.
This could at least give them more time to eradicate and remove movies that were republished and shared across their platforms.
That would have been during the period after which they realized that a questionable video was circulating but before the spread of that content was out of control and became impossible to manage.
At the moment, Facebook seems to be taking no steps in that direction, and it would probably be a difficult policy to apply.
While the Christchurch attacks were an aberration in New Zealand, the atrocities in which people are killed in large numbers occur all over the world every day, so social media companies could face permanent pressure to pause.
And yet, Facebook and others will have to think about what they would do "next time".
Realistically, a combination of measures could be the best hope.
Dealing with large US social media companies can leave regulators as well as experienced journalists and members of the public who feel rather powerless.
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and Apple still have nothing like the "bandwidth" they need to communicate and be genuinely responsible to the media and other members of the public.
This makes them fundamentally different from 20th century IT giants like Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard.
Many may sympathize with Edwards in the appearance of losing his rag.
But a relentless, constructive and concerted drive for practical solutions – the kind we're beginning to see late applied to firearm control – will be needed to bring about real change.
Flashes of indignation alone will not.