Police have detained three young men suspected of broadcasting a gang rape on Facebook Live in Uppsala, Sweden.
Local media reported that Swedish police found out about the crime by online witnesses who were among the 200 people watching the rape unfold on Saturday night in a Facebook group that at one point had more than 60,000 members.
“He pulled her clothes off and lay on top of her,” one witness, 21-year-old Josefine Lundgren, told Sweden’s Expressen tabloid. Several hours later, police raided the apartment and arrested the men, before the webcam was shut off.
“The first thing you think is ‘how can you do such a thing to a girl? And how can you do it live when you know that you are going to go there?’” said another former member of the closed Facebook group.
Swedish deputy chief prosecutor Magnus Berggren requested in a Monday press conference that social media users stop circulating footage of the incident and instead hand over the original video to authorities.
The footage apparently shows three men, aged between 18 and 24, forcefully stripping a nearly unconscious woman before assaulting her in front of the camera. At least one of the suspects appeared to be holding a gun. A police statement said the alleged victim was around 28 years old.
The spokesman for Facebook in the Nordic countries told the AFP that the rape was “a hideous crime.”
“Our teams work around the clock to review content that is being reported by users,” he said, adding that Facebook cooperates with police in criminal investigations.”
Facebook Live allows video broadcasts directly from a user’s smartphone, though does not apply the same regulations as television broadcasters. Facebook’s Community Standards statement says that it removes “content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety,” though it also states that “because of the diversity of our global community, please keep in mind that something that may be disagreeable or disturbing to you may not violate our Community Standards.”
The reluctance by Facebook and other social media sites to devote resources to regulating the content on their sites has resulted in a minor wave of viral violence. On Jan. 4, four young African-Americans in Chicago were charged with a hate crime after live-streaming on Facebook a video showing them assault an 18-year-old mentally disabled man. In the video, the four men cut the man’s scalp with a knife, punch him, and shout obscenities about Donald Trump and “white people.”
On Dec. 30, a 12-year-old girl said she was suffering from depression and had been physically and sexually abused by a family member before live-streaming her own suicide in front of her family home in Georgia through the Live.Me streaming service. While YouTube and Live.Me immediately removed the video, Facebook took more than two weeks to take it down, after it had already reached an audience of thousands throughout the world.
“We want it down as much as anyone for the family, and it may be harmful to other kids. We contacted some of the sites,” said local Police Chief Kenny Dodd in an interview with the WAGA-TV station following the incident. “They asked if they had to take it down and by law they don’t. But it’s just the common, decent thing to do in my opinion.”
This story originally appeared on Vocativ and has been republished with permission.