Facebook cracks down on fake live videos

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Facebook is banning misleading uses of its Live video format. The company tells TechCrunch that it’s adding a section to its Live API Facebook Platform Policy that reads “Don’t use the API to publish only images (ex: don’t publish static, animated, or looping images), or to live-stream polls associated with unmoving or ambient broadcasts.”

Videos that violate the policy will have reduced visibility on Facebook, and publishers that repeatedly break the rule may have their access to Facebook Live restricted.

TechCrunch called on Facebook to crack down on fake “Live” videos back in January after it announced a list of the top 10 Live videos of 2016 — half of which weren’t really Live but instead just polls or countdowns on a static background.

Facebook asked for viewer feedback, and heard that users don’t find these static images or graphics-only pools to be interesting or engaging Live content. In December, Facebook quietly barred graphics-only Live videos that used Likes or Reactions to get people to vote from the News Feed.

Now Facebook is taking the next step toward preserving the sanctity of the Live format.

It’s the urgency, unpredictability and on-screen action that draws people to Live videos and gets them to keep watching to see what happens next. If users grow accustomed to fake Live videos, they may watch all Live videos less, and be less inclined to open notifications about people or publishers they follow starting to broadcast.

We’ve reached out for clarifications about one prevalent type of misleading Live videos: countdowns. Since these are often filmed with a computer graphic over a looping background, videos like the New Year’s countdown above from BuzzFeed could potentially be qualify, but Facebook tells me that for now, countdowns of real-world happens that don’t loop are not prohibited. But if publishers who post thes keep getting negative feedback, their reach could shrink, and Facebook seays it will continue to monitor this trend.

Facebook has poured a ton of engineering and marketing resources into owning the verb, “to go Live.” Keeping the quality of these broadcasts high is critical to it recouping those costs over the long-term by being the the premier place to record and watch Live social content.