Those Popular Space Livestreams Probably Aren’t Live

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When it comes to viral media, there are few topics more successful than science. Social-media users “fucking love science.” There’s nothing better than a picturesque video of a weird animal or a snarky Neil deGrasse Tyson fact-check on Twitter. And, of course, there’s space.

That would explain why, as Mashable reveals, Facebook pages that traffic in viral chum are uploading space-station broadcasts previously archived on YouTube, presenting the footage as if it were live. Pages with meaningless names like UNILAD, Viral USA, and Interestinate are displaying what appear, at first glance, to be live footage of astronaut activity, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and interactions. In one UNILAD broadcast from this year, for instance, two cosmonauts can be seen clearly wielding the torch from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

In reality, there is compelling evidence to suggest that the videos are uploaded and set to go live at a certain time. Facebook allows and encourages pages to use prerecorded footage as if it were live, broadcasting in the same way a network might present a taped TV show at a certain time.

Copyright law theoretically prevents Facebook publishers from uploading content that they don’t own, although NASA, as a government organization, might not be able to claim ownership of any of the footage. Facebook’s guidelines do not appear to prohibit or discourage users from presenting prerecorded footage as live.