Brindisi calls for probe after graphic photos of Utica murder stayed on social media
The alleged killer of Bianca Devins, 17, of Utica, who was murdered last month, posted images of her death on social media that remained visible on platforms like Instagram for more than a week, even after users flagged them as violating community guidelines. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) is now calling on Instagram to conduct an independent audit, and the Federal Trade Commission to open a special probe into what went wrong.
Bianca Devins’ grandfather Frank Williams described her as loving, caring, an aspiring model, and a wonderful artist.
“And a 17-year-old girl that still loved swings," Williams said. "I’m thinking of pushing her on a swing right now.”
Williams said after Devins’ death, family members were sent graphic images of the murder in private messages.
“Many of these private messages said, look at your daughter now,” Williams said.
The family reached out to Brindisi for help.
“The pain of losing a child is unimaginable," Brindisi said. "But to have that pain exploited, mocked and shared on social media, is a trauma that no family should ever have to go through.”
Users that flagged the images were told by Facebook and Instagram that the images could remain with a sensitive content warning or that the guidelines weren't violated. Brindisi said that's unacceptable.
“Instagram and every other social media company need to be more vigilant and do more work to police graphic content on their platforms,” Brindisi said. “Social media is currently acting like the Wild West. There needs to be more accountability. If these multi-billion dollar corporations can’t get it done, then it’s time for accountability at the federal level.”
He's calling on the FTC to investigate social media's sensitive content practices and to make recommendations. Federal legislation, he said, might be needed. Instagram employs 15,000 personnel to monitor content but Brindisi said it's not enough.