Alain Cocq, 57, suffers from a painful and incurable illness that causes the walls of his arteries to stick together and has said he expects to die within the week after spending the last 34 years in the terminal stage of his disease, the outlet reported. In the past, he’s used his condition to draw attention to the plight of terminally ill patients and champion reform of France’s right-to-die law. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron denied his request for voluntary euthanasia — which is illegal in the country — after Cocq sent a letter imploring the president to let him die “with dignity,” according to CNN.
In a Facebook livestream in the early hours of Saturday morning, Cocq told his more than 22,000 followers that he would broadcast his death and had stopped all eating and drinking. He told French media that he felt compelled to share his final agonising moments “so that people know what the end of life is like in France.” At the same time, he made it clear he wasn’t out to upset viewers with intentionally disturbing images, so the broadcast wouldn’t have sound and would end the moment he dies.
While Facebook’s been raked over the coals these past few weeks for its dangerously lax moderation of violent content and extremist groups, in this case at least, the social media giant acted swiftly. It took down the stream within hours, and Cocq posted an update saying that he’d been blocked from broadcasting video until September 8.
“Our hearts go out to Alain Cocq and those who are affected by this sad situation,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to the Verge on Saturday. “While we respect his decision to draw attention to this complex and difficult issue, based on the guidance of experts, we have taken steps to keep Alain from broadcasting live, as we do not allow the depiction of suicide attempts.”
According to Agence France-Presse, Cocq said he’s currently looking for another way to get his livestream out there. He encouraged his followers in a Facebook post to protest the platform’s “unjust methods of discrimination and obstruction of freedom of expression,” per the outlet.
French law prohibits euthanasia and only allows terminally ill patients to be heavily sedated until death under very specific circumstances. Cocq doesn’t meet this criteria, but, because of a legal loophole, citizens can choose to stop medical treatment or die of hunger or thirst, since there is no prosecution for suicide under French law. Several other European countries have fully legalised physician-assisted euthanasia, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg.
Facebook’s moderation policies came under fire recently when it dragged its feet on taking down a page encouraging a violent response to Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but that was only the latest incident in a history of struggling to effectively gatekeep content on its platform.
In 2017, an Alabama man livestreamed his suicide on Facebook, prompting concern among law enforcement officials that it could start a wave of copycats unless the platform beefed up its systems to quickly detect and monitor broadcasts for disturbing content and violence.
Earlier this year, Facebook scrambled to take another livestreamed suicide of a 50-year-old man in England, blocking the broadcast “very soon” after it was posted, the company told Newsweek — but not before it had attracted more than 400 viewers. In the platform’s most infamous incident, the 2019 livestreamed footage of a gunman killing 50 people in New Zealand, one of the country’s worst terrorist attacks to date, was uploaded onto Facebook more than 1.5 million times within 24 hours, according to the Washington Post.