In early September 2020, Snopes readers asked for verification of a troubling story circulating widely online. Is it true, they asked, that Ronnie McNutt, a U.S. Army veteran, committed suicide on Facebook Live, the social media platform’s livestream service?
Sadly, it is true.
We confirmed with local police and McNutt’s friend Josh Steen that McNutt, 33, did indeed take his own life on Aug. 31, 2020, about 10:30 p.m., while streaming live on Facebook from his home in New Albany, Mississippi. We also confirmed with the U.S. Army that McNutt was a veteran who served in the Iraq War from June 2007 to March 2008.
But McNutt’s death and the way the incident was handled by Facebook has garnered fierce criticism from Steen, who has launched #ReformforRonnie. The campaign is designed to hold social media companies accountable for spreading misinformation, hate, and violence, and demands that social media platforms accept responsibility for content posted to their platforms, and efficiently and evenly enforce their terms of service.
“This is a systematic problem that has gone on too long,” Steen told us by phone.
In a prepared statement sent out to the news media, Facebook said: “We removed the original video from Facebook last month on the day it was streamed and have used automation technology to remove copies and uploads since that time.”
On Sept. 10, 2020, a Facebook spokesperson informed us that the original video was up for 2 hours and 41 minutes before Facebook removed it. “We are reviewing how we could have taken down the livestream faster,” the company said in a statement.
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