Social Media Vigilantism

I paid very close attention when it was clear that the aftermath of the 2011 Vancouver Riots were going to play out a little differently. During the mayhem that followed the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-0 Stanley Cup final loss to the Boston Bruins social media circles exploded with images and information about what was happening, where it was happening, and, surprised as I’m sure a few people were, photos of who was doing it. Following the riots outraged Vancouverites began plastering their images everywhere and it wasn’t long before the power of using social media to fight crime was noticed. In a matter of days Vancouver Police had thousands of images and hundreds of hours of video footage. They were overwhelmed to say the least.

Vancouver Police recently handed out 35,000 posters with photos of 104 suspected Stanley Cup rioters who have yet to be identified. Many of the photos are from social media sources like Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. Last month, police recommended 163 charges against 60 alleged looters and vandals and a total of 118 people have been arrested or turned themselves in so far. Police say between 500 and 700 people will likely face charges by the time the investigation is concluded. Will rioting ever be the same?

This week some teens in superhero costumes posted their efforts to catch pedophiles on YouTube. They confronted men arriving at rendezvous points arranged after they posed as 15-year-old girls on Plenty of Fish. The teens started online conversations, pretended they were teenage girls and arranged to meet the men in public places like a parking lot or a restaurant. They then confronted the men and accused them of being pedophiles while filming the encounter. The videos were later posted on YouTube under the header “To Troll a Predator.” Despite police having some reservations the teens work is very popular as many comments their Facebook page and news articles can attest.

Locally (here in Halifax) Twitter is being used to out drivers who are using cell phones while driving. It’s been against the law in Nova Scotia for a few years and some people don’t seem to care about the danger they pose to others.

The bad driver account lead to a Twitter account outing jaywalkers. It never ends.

Finally, there’s another local story of a driver who lost his cool, drove at a couple who yelled at him to slow down, and killed their dog. I’m not sure what this assholes Facebook page looked like before but here it is now. 26-year old Jordan Donald Schreiner is charged with assault with a weapon, dangerous driving, assaulting a police officer, and a few more charges. The Internet is a very unforgiving place for those tagged on it.