Facebook said on Friday it was seeing an increase in the number of people watching live video on the social network as more people socially distance themselves from friends and family due to the coronavirus epidemic. From February to March, Facebook Live viewership in the United States increased by up to 50%, according to the company.
The social media giant, which has 2.5 billion monthly active users, said it was also stepping up efforts to make live video accessible to more people. This includes the ability to watch live video without a Facebook account and a way to only listen to audio from a video, a feature that could help users in areas with poor internet connections.
The increase in Facebook Live users means the social network will focus more on live video, a tool that also presents moderation challenges for the company. While users have turned to Facebook Live to broadcast everything from concerts to cooking demonstrations, it has also been used in the past to broadcast suicides and crimes like the one last year. Christchurch mosque shooting.
A Facebook spokeswoman did not share the total number of Facebook Live users in the United States, but said the increase was “significant”. There have been over 8.5 billion streams on Facebook Live.
Fiji Simo, who runs the Facebook app, told Bloomberg the company is changing its product roadmap like user behavior changes due to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Employees focus more on live videos, news, and groups than on features that encourage people to gather in person, like Facebook Events and Facebook Marketplace (where people sell new and used goods) . These priorities will likely continue even if the spread of the virus subsides.
“It’s a need that exists in times of physical distancing, but it’s also a need that exists in normal times,” Simo told Bloomberg.
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