More public lecture talk!
Tuesday night, I attended another Public Lecture put on by Wilfred Laurier Brantford.
The speaker was Dr. Christopher Schneider, an Associate Professor of Sociology out of the University of British Columbia.
His lecture focused on the role of social media in the Vancouver Riots, both in 1994 and 2011. As bloggers, we’re heavily invested in social media. Most bloggers I read make at least partial use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. So, a lecture about social media is definitely of interest to me.
A quick background:
- 1994: A riot ensued in downtown Vancouver following Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals where Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers. Approximately 50 000 – 70 000 individuals gathered in downtown Vancouver, where a riot soon occurred. The riots caused 200 injuries, approximately $1.1 million in damages, and the use of tear gas by the police.
- 2011: A square had been roped off in downtown Vancouver to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Canucks and the Bruins, with two big screen TVs to watch the game. After the Canucks loss, some spectators began throwing bottles and other objects at the large screens. It soon escalated into overturned cars, cars set on fire, property destruction, and looting. It resulted in 140 injuries, $5 million in damages, and 101 arrests that night.
(source. Of course).
Interesting points of the lecture:
- During the 1994 riots, police got a warrant for media footage (media had initially refused to give up the material) reviewed it, and set up “viewing boxes” in Vancouver so that the public could help identify rioters. Police were able to edit the footage, taking out any images of anything that could be construed as police brutality or unnecessary roughness.
- During the 2011 riots, social media was huge. People were posting cell phone footage of the riots to Facebook and Twitter. All in all, over 30 terabytes of data was collected.
Sounds like a useful tool to help police identify and arrest rioters, right? Unfortunately, this presents issues.
- Cell phone footage is third party data. In order to use it in the court, you have to prove credibility – that is hasn’t been tampered with. Few of the rioters identified and arrested have appeared in court as of yet.
- In Canada, a minor cannot have their name released to the public. With the 2011 riot, a well known 17 year old was caught on film participating in the destruction of a police vehicle. His name and phone number were released on Facebook by people identifying him online – therefore destroying any chance of anonymity supposed to be guaranteed to him. The harassment got so bad that his family was chased from their home.
- Another rioter posted a status on Facebook talking about he punched a cop in the face, set a police car on fire, ect. ect. Originally seen as evidence, it was later proven that the individual did not, in fact do anything he had stated.
My first instinct is to think that the role of social media in these sort of situations is a useful one. I mean, if they’re helping the police, it can’t be a bad thing right? It also forces the police to use discretion as well – if any evidence of unnecessary roughness on their part gets caught on camera (and now, there are ALWAYS camera phones going on in these sort of situations) they will receive negative attention for it.
But Dr. Schnieder’s talk did get me thinking – maybe this isn’t as positive as I had originally thought. Because it is so easy to tamper with images (Hello, photoshop) getting the footage to be accepted in courts is a long, drawn-out process. There’s also the privacy issue – when people were identifying rioters on film, they were posting names, phone numbers, occupations, and addresses online as well – NOT something you would ever find in traditional media. Privacy becomes completely compromised – a looter during the riot dropped out of school due to threats and harassment and was fired from three jobs after the incident.
So my question to you is: How do you feel about the use of social media (Twitter, Facebook, ect.) in the pursuit of justice? Is it acceptable, or does it infringe on too many rights? Does it even work?
Side note: I love how for the past two weeks, one of my classes has been held in Williams Fresh Cafe. Super convenient, because it’s a three hour class that runs over lunch.
Although, trying to eat this enormous (albeit delicious – greens, roasted beets, apple, goat cheese, and candied pecan bits with pomegranate dressing) salad is difficult to do while trying to simultaneously type on a laptop. The deliciousness was worth it though.
(all images link to their original source)