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Thailand media slammed for Facebook Live baby murder coverage

PHOTO:AFP

Thai media came under fire Wednesday for publishing images of a man killing his infant daughter in a Facebook Live video, a grim case that sparked outrage and raised fears of copycat killings.

The video, filmed Monday on the southern resort island of Phuket, showed Wuttisan Wongtalay hang his 11-month daughter, Natalie, from an abandoned building before taking his own life, according to police in charge of the case.

The footage was online for around 24 hours before it was removed on Tuesday, prompting cries for Facebook to move more swiftly to take down clips of grisly crimes and killings.

A Thai media body also slammed news outlets that showed graphic images of the crime.

At least one major Thai daily printed an image of the murder-suicide on its front page Tuesday, while several TV channels also aired segments of the video.

“The News Broadcasting Council of Thailand received complaints about reporting on a man who killed his child and himself via Facebook Live,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Those reports were inappropriate,” it added, warning channels and newspapers against giving graphic coverage to similar crimes because they “may lead to copycats with the understanding that those actions will draw attention.”

Thai newspaper front pages are often splashed with bloody, lurid imagery.

But netizens expressed horror over the killing and said this time the coverage had gone too far.

“It was a news story, not a horror movie. Was it really necessary to release the soundbite?” one commentator wrote in the online forum Pantip, referring to audio played by some media from the Facebook Live stream.

Police said they believe the killing was motivated by jealousy from Wuttisan, 20, who feared his 22-year-old partner was poised to leave him for a man she had another child with.

Funeral rites for the baby began late Tuesday and she is expected to be cremated later this week.

– ‘A lot of work to do’ –
In a statement late Tuesday Facebook described the incident as “appalling”.

“There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed,” the social network told AFP.

The killing was only the latest grisly crime to be published on Facebook, reviving questions about if and how such videos can be monitored.

Last week Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg vowed to address the issue after a man in the US state of Ohio broadcast footage of himself shooting a stranger dead.

The killer went on to fatally shoot himself after a massive manhunt and police chase.

Zuckerberg conceded that Facebook had “a lot of work” to do on the issue.

Facebook already has a 24-hour team of moderators who decide whether to remove content that is reported to them. Suicides and crimes are prioritised.

But the network says they are limited by the sheer volume of content posted online each day.

A Thai police spokesman said officers moved quickly to alert the kingdom’s digital ministry about the video, which contacted Facebook about taking it down.

“We have only a handful of police officers on duty (to monitor the web) so we have to rely heavily on the public to keep us informed,” deputy national police spokesman Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen told AFP.

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