Three weeks ago, Josh Steen watched his close friend Ronnie McNutt kill himself live on Facebook. Now, he is fighting for answers from the firm and other social media platforms where clips of the suicide are widely available.
“For the last two and a half weeks Ronnie’s image has been one of the most recognisable on the internet and yet these companies claim to have detection software to stop it, so something isn’t right,” he said.
He reported it to Facebook during the livestream, at 22:00 Mississippi time – two hours after the video had started, and half an hour before Ronnie killed himself. He said that he didn’t get a response until 23:51, when Facebook told him that the video did not violate its community guidelines.
By then, Mr McNutt was dead. Josh Steen said the social network had an opportunity to stop the stream when Ronnie misfired his gun before 22:00 – which he says is a clear violation of the guidelines.
“If Facebook had intervened then, my friend may still have committed suicide but at least there wouldn’t be this video.”
Who Was Ronnie McNutt?
Mr McNutt was a 33-year-old army veteran who had seen active service in Iraq, and subsequently dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental-health issues.
He had recently broken up with his girlfriend and had been drinking on the night of his death. He was talking about suicide and arguing with people who were trying to comfort him. At some point the police turned up outside his apartment.
More than 200 people were watching the stream when he died, including Mr Steen and several of his friends.
Ronnie McNutt: Suicide Video Explored
Clips showing his death started going viral the day after his suicide. Tragic US Army veteran Ronnie McNutt, whose livestreamed suicide has sent shock waves through social media, shared a heartbreaking final message on Facebook just before he went online.
“The video was public and his account was public. Whoever took the first clip and uploaded it created a back story about Ronnie,” said Mr Steen.
“None of it was true. But it helped fuel the fire to help it spread,” he added.
On Mr McNutt’s Facebook page, more and more comments were being posted. Many were unpleasant and Mr Steen reported them to the social network as harassment.
But he said Facebook told him nothing could be done because he was not the account holder.
Meanwhile, several online funding pages were set up in Ronnie’s honour. But they were not authorised by the family and Mr Steen is unclear what, if anything, was being done about it.
“It got so out of hand. We watched it circle the globe. When a person in Australia says their nine-year-old child had seen this on TikTok, it’s crushing.”
He is aware that many will argue Mr McNutt should never have filmed his death in this manner and that others will blame him for the psychological damage inflicted on those seeing the video.
But Mr Steen remains loyal to his friend.
“I don’t think that was his intention when he started the live,” he said.
“When you go back and follow his digital trail there is this beautiful telling of his life on various social-media platforms. He had a history of getting on a streaming service and talking.”
McNutt’s pal Josh Steen told Heavy.com that he felt social media sites could have done more to suppress the video of his friend’s death.
“Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms could ban accounts, IPs, and stop the spread of this video. YouTube can flag you for using two seconds of a copyrighted song, but can’t seem to filter out my friend ending his life,” Steen said.