Facebook shuts down pirate pages offering streamed soccer matches

Hugely popular Capitanes del Fútbol and Planeta Fútbol sites have been blocked by social media giant

The Capitanes del Fútbol and Planeta Fútbol sites are no longer available.
The Capitanes del Fútbol and Planeta Fútbol sites are no longer available.

Facebook has begun cracking down on user pages that illegally stream footage of major soccer championship matches to millions of viewers globally – a move that comes after the verne section of EL PAÍS reported that dozens of Spanish and Latin American Facebook pages are illegally broadcasting top-flight games free of charge using the social network’s Facebook Live video-sharing facility.

The Capitanes del Fútbol page, which had more than a million followers, was shut down recently, as were related profiles including Tío Capi, Capitanes TV, Capitanes TV 2 and El Capitano. Planeta Fútbol, with more than 700,000 followers, is also no longer available.

As part of its crackdown, Facebook also blocked the pages of these sites’ administrators, many of whom managed various accounts with false names to get around the social media platform’s rules.

“We can’t comment on specific cases of infraction of author’s rights but as our policy indicates, users are prohibited from publishing content that infringes [on these rights] and we also deactivate accounts of repeat offenders as appropriate,” Facebook told EL PAÍS.

Facebook also noted that it had, in recent months, rolled out tools designed to prevent the illegal use of its Facebook Live service. Making use of Rights Manager, content owners can request that pirate streams be blocked.

Spain’s La Liga soccer division has not confirmed to EL PAÍS whether it was behind the request to block the Capitanes del Fútbol and Planeta Fútbol sites.

Sites such as Capitanes del Fútbol, Planeta Fútbol – now both closed – and Fútbol Directo Honduras, among many others, get around Facebook’s rules by advertising pages that transmit games illegally and then provide links to them.

These sites – mostly aimed at a Spanish-speaking public – create a network of intermediary profiles that redirect to other sites that have tapped into the broadcast and are illegally transmitting it. Once the game is over, the network of pages closes down; sometimes it is created for a single match. The sites then return to being seemingly innocuous pages dedicated to soccer news and gossip.

Facebook launched its video-streaming service in late 2015. Over the course of 2016 it has boosted its Live content, giving it priority over articles in the algorithm that decides what to show users.

Technically, any smartphone connected to the internet can broadcast a video live.

English version by George Mills.

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