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Live streaming

Live streaming allows you to share special moments or follow broadcasts of events as they happen. Being aware of the benefits and risks when using this feature can help you stay safe online.

On this page:

What is live streaming?

Live streaming lets you broadcast video over the internet and keep a record of it. You could be streaming to one person or to thousands, depending on the settings and online service being used. All you need is an internet connected device with a camera and an online platform, like a website or app, to stream your broadcast.

Live streaming is different from video chat, as it does not have two-way audio and video communication by default. Instead, you need to invite ‘guests’ to add their video to a stream.

Users can also comment on your stream, meaning you can also respond in real time. Depending on your settings, these comments may also be visible to everyone else watching the stream.

The benefits of live streaming

Sharing moments with others

It is easy to share a special moment with your family, friends or followers with live streaming. It could be a birthday, graduation or other personal event that others may not be able to get to.

Live streamed moments don’t have to be special or significant – people reacting to other content, unboxing everyday items and online gaming are some of the popular topics people stream about. 

The comments help your online connections join in on the moment and show their support.

Citizen journalism 

Anyone with a smartphone can now live stream. They can record and broadcast events such as natural disasters, accidents or political events in real time and give commentary as it happens. These streams can sometimes be re-reported and expanded upon by mainstream news outlets. The live streams of citizen journalists can also give more information and context to the stories some media organisations produce.

Watch events and performances

Live streaming lets you watch events such as concerts, conferences or sports that you’re unable to join in person. As well as the actual event, performers, sportspeople, celebrities and other participants sometimes live stream behind the scenes or after an event or game to connect with their fans. 

Live streaming has also created new audiences, like groups who use dedicated online services and channels to watch each other play video games online.

The risks of live streaming

Live streaming can impact your digital footprint

If you live stream it’s easy to do things in the moment without thinking through what you have shared. This could be giving away more information about yourself than you planned or an opinion that you later regret making public, such as something said in anger.

People might also trick you and use flattery in the comments to get you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t want people to see or hear.

Some live streaming services allow others to share your broadcast or a copy of it. Your live stream could also be screen captured and recorded without you knowing. Once captured, it can be easily shared on any platform and could be hard to delete. This means anything you stream might form part of your lasting digital footprint.

Learn more about your digital reputation created by all the things you say and do online.

Unwanted or unsafe contact

Unwanted contact is any type of online communication that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or harassed. It can be with a stranger or someone you know. You may actually welcome the contact at first, until the other person says or does something you don't like.

You might receive unwanted contact from followers or other people on the platform when you’re live streaming, depending on what your privacy settings are. While you can usually block some accounts, they might try to contact you again from a different account or find you on other online platforms. Details in your background could also share your location while you’re live streaming and put your safety at risk.

Read more about unwanted and unsafe contact, cyberstalking and how to manage your digital safety settings.

Online bullying and other types of abuse

Not everyone is respectful online. There is a risk that you could be bullied or abused in other ways while live streaming, especially if you don’t know the person or their profile is anonymous.

Read more about cyberbullying and adult cyber abuse to find out how to manage the impacts if this happens to you or someone you know.

‘Sextortion’ and other types of image-based abuse

Sharing a livestream of intimate content without the consent of the person shown is a type of image-based abuse and is illegal. Threatening to share a recording of the livestream is also illegal.  

If you are involved in sexual activity during a livestream, the person you are sending it to may record it by taking a screen capture (‘capping’) without you knowing. If they are a scammer, they are likely to try to blackmail you for money or more intimate content by threatening to share the recording online or directly with your contacts.

Learn more about image-based abuse and how to deal with sexual extortion.

Seeing inappropriate or distressing content

People can live stream anything, including illegal acts or content that is not age-appropriate. There have been many cases of people live streaming themselves committing acts of extreme violence or terrorism. Since live streaming is in real time, it’s difficult to moderate the content. Live streams with distressing content and recordings made of them may be available for some time before being taken down from an online service or blocked by an internet service provider (ISP).

Learn more about illegal and restricted online content and how to report.

More information

Visit The eSafety Guide to find out more about specific online services, platforms and games using live streaming.

You can also read about the legal powers eSafety has to help protect people who live in Australia from the most serious online abuse and harmful content.

Last updated: 13/05/2024