Evidence Streamed Live Online Doesn’t Alter Investigations

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WESLACO – A Hidalgo County man’s livestreamed confession after a double homicide is a new and uncomfortable feeling for some in the Rio Grande Valley community.

However, it’s not the first time a confession video has been livestreamed on social media. Live intent and confession videos have been posted from around the country.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS inquired about the responsibility of social media companies and if live-streamed evidence changes the course of an investigation.

Last month, an 18-year-old was arrested after she livestreamed a drunk-driving joy ride that ended in a deadly crash, killing her sister, in California.

A Mission police officer was also suspended after a live video depicted him rapping, drinking and flashing a bag of green-leafy substance inside a car.

Palmview Police Lt. Saul Uvalle told CHANNEL 5 NEWS nearly every investigation these days involves evidence collected from social media.

“Social media plays a big role in our community right now,” he explained. “Everybody posts something on it. Everybody finds something out. Everybody’s pulling out their phones. Accessible cameras are what the trend is right now.”

Uvalle said evidence collected from social media is treated just like DNA collected at a crime scene. But even though it’s there, he said it doesn’t necessarily mean case closed. An investigation is still required.

Websites like Instagram and Facebook aren’t liable for what third parties post, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

According to police, even if evidence is posted publicly, investigators still need to get a subpoena, signed by the district attorney to add it to a case. If a message or post is deleted, they can still use it.

“Although you try to delete that information, it’s still in there. It’s still cached somewhere in that phone,” explained Uvalle. “That’s where the warrants come in. We know that the evidence is there. We have that device in our possession. So, now we need a warrant to get in there and extract all of that.”

Usually, police need a complainant to report a crime. According to Uvalle, in the state of Texas, if there is no victim or the victim died as a result of the acts, the state can step in as the complainant.

In April, the VP of Facebook made a public post on community standards and reporting. Josofsky explained the company was improving reporting flows after a man in Cleveland posted video of himself announcing his intent to murder, then posted another video of himself shooting and killing an elderly man.

The social media site claimed they did not receive a report about the first video. They said they didn’t learn about the second video until an hour and 45 mins after it was posted.


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