Suicide on Periscope Prompts French Officials to Open Inquiry
In a series of videos on the live-streaming app Periscope, she said that her name was Océane, that she was 19 and that she worked in a retirement home. Seated on a couch, she smoked cigarettes, played with her cat, and showed off her tattoos: a rose on her left forearm, a small heart on her right thumb. She engaged with Periscope followers, who asked about her life and her hobbies.
At 4:29 p.m. on Tuesday, while recording herself on Periscope, the woman threw herself under a train at the Égly station, about 25 miles south of Paris, on the C line of the regional train system known as the R.E.R.
On Wednesday, French officials said they had opened an investigation into her death.
Éric Lallement, the local prosecutor, said the young woman, whom he did not identify, had sent a text message to a friend of her former boyfriend, saying the ex-boyfriend had abused and raped her. In the text message, “she declares she is ending her life because of the evil that he did to her,” Mr. Lallement said in a statement.
He added that investigators were examining the woman’s mobile phone and were working to obtain the original videos from Periscope. The investigators, he said, had talked to the woman’s relatives, and they had described her as being psychologically fragile and as having had a troubled relationship with the ex-boyfriend.
The videos are no longer available on Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, but excerpts from the videos were widely circulated on YouTube, with the suicide blacked out.
In the video excerpts, the woman said, “The video I am doing right now is not made to create buzz, but rather to make people react, to open minds, and that’s it.”
When one Periscope user asked her if she was going to commit suicide, she answered, “No, I am not going to kill myself,” but added, “I have reached the point where nothing pleases me,” and, “Nothing can make me want to get up in the morning.”
People watching the video chimed in with remarks — including “We’re waiting,” “Always a pleasure to see you,” “Give us a hint” and “I think it’s fun” — that suggested that they did not appreciate the gravity of her distress.
At one point in the excerpts, the screen goes dark, and there is no noise. About five minutes later, the voice of someone, evidently an emergency worker, can be heard saying, “I am under the train with the victim; I need to move the victim.” The train is visible in the seconds before the video cuts out.
The death appeared to be the latest of several recent episodes in which disturbing and violent acts have been transmitted via live-streaming technologies. Last month, two teenagers assaulted a drunken 24-year-old man in a nightclub district of Bordeaux, France. One of the two assailants recorded the attack on Periscope, and filmed himself bragging and laughing about it. Both teenagers were arrested.
Also last month, the authorities in Ohio said an 18-year-old woman had witnessed a 17-year-old high school friend being raped and had not only failed to help, but had pointed her mobile phone at the friend and streamed a video of the assault on Periscope. The teenager, Marina Lonina, was charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor — the same charges leveled at Raymond Gates, 29, the man accused in the attack.
“I have never seen a case such as this where you would actually live-stream a sexual assault,” Ron O’Brien, the prosecutor in Franklin County, Ohio, told journalists.
Thomas Husson, a Paris-based analyst at the technology research company Forrester Research, said it was inevitable that live-streaming tools would be used to record tragic and even brutal events.
技术研究公司弗雷斯特研究(Forrester Research)驻巴黎分析师汤玛斯·赫森(Thomas Husson)表示，直播工具不可避免会被用来记录悲惨、甚至是残忍的事件。
“It’s both the good and bad part of these technologies: They allow people to enter other people’s private lives,” he said in a phone interview.
“It would be very difficult to prevent such events from happening,” he said of the suicide. “We now live in a dictatorship of real time.”
Mr. Husson added: “These technologies enable real-time streaming, which can have a lot of unintended consequences. Internet giants are starting to monitor how people use their technologies in real time, but it’s tricky. It’s almost impossible to control how people use social media.”
Regulators have been trying to get a hold on new social media tools, like Periscope and Snapchat, mostly out of concern about their use by extremist organizations like the Islamic State.
“These companies will inevitably have to comply with new rules,” Mr. Husson said. “But that’s a political question. At the end of the day, it’s about potential new regulation over how people can use these technologies.”
Twitter encourages people to submit a form if they believe that a user is at risk of self-harm. Periscope’s community guidelines state: “To maintain a healthy platform, explicit graphic content is not allowed. Explicit graphic content includes, but is not limited to, depictions of child abuse, animal abuse or bodily harm. Periscope is not for content that is intended to incite violence, or includes a direct and specific threat of violence to others.”