To police comments on streaming video, Periscope turns its viewers into jurors

Periscope hopes to stop abuse and spam on its video streams by turning its users into judges, juries and commentators.

The video-streaming app, owned by Twitter Inc., launched Wednesday a quasi-judicial system to determine if comments that users have identified as offensive should be removed from the platform or be left alone. When a comment on a live stream is flagged by users, the app randomly selects viewers of that video and asks whether the message looks like spam, abuse or is just fine as is.

Majority rules, and if a comment is deemed objectionable the commenter gets temporarily locked out of the video as punishment.


See more of our top stories on Facebook >>

Users who don’t want to participate in voting can adjust their settings.

Social media platforms have long held users accountable for identifying objectionable content – but with its judicial panels, Periscope has gone further than many.

Pressure has been mounting for streaming services to do more to handle abuse and trolls after a woman in France broadcast her suicide on Periscope last month.

Hemanshu Nigam, a former chief security officer at Myspace and current cybersecurity consultant, praised the concept behind Periscope’s plan. But he worried that users may not prove to be qualified judges of content.

He wonders whether a company should put so much faith in its users.

“There are so many scenarios where this doesn’t work,” Nigam said.

SIGN UP for the free California Inc. business newsletter >>

But if Periscope is serious about policing its comments, user panels might make the most sense. Another option would be to delay the display of comments, allowing a Periscope moderation team to quickly survey them before they appear in the app. But aside from slowing down commentary on the fast-moving app, such a system would be very labor intensive ‒ and therefore really expensive.

Nigam also questioned how the new policy will address harmful broadcasts -- such as the suicide in France.

Twitter Inc. declined to be interviewed on the record for this story.

Twitter: @TheSchiffMan


If Facebook promotes propaganda, can it be a neutral news platform?

Salesforce buys Demandware for $2.8 billion, gaining more e-commerce power

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft agree to help EU fight hate speech