Canadians use social media to out Vancouver rioters
Some see the use of social media skills to learn the identities of post-Stanley Cup Vancouver rioters as a dangerous new trend. Many officials are worried about vigilante justice.
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“Being a part of the riot was simply to fulfill the adrenaline rush I was looking and hoping for – an adrenaline rush that I previously got from post-winning games,” she wrote. “I had no intentions of defiling the city. I love Vancouver as much as you do – I’ve lived here since I was 7 months old. But in my immature, intoxicated perspective all I saw was that the riot was happening and would continue happening with or without me, so I might as well get my adrenaline fix.”Skip to next paragraph
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Jeromie Williams, an “administrator” for one of the social media sites, the Facebook group “100,000 strong to ban Nathan Kotylak from the Canada Olympic team,” says the aim of the group was to make sure that Kotylak does not represent Canada in the Olympics, since “his actions don’t reflect Canadian values.”
But he says contributors also want retribution and the toughest possible sentences for the rioters, and do not trust the justice system will act harshly enough.
“The general feeling is that these people are guilty,” he says. “If Nathan Kotylak isn’t convicted or if he strikes a plea bargain, there has to be a backup plan and the group is that backup plan.”
The post-game riot was heavily documented with cellphone cameras, and the Vancouver Police Department initially asked the public to send them any pictures or videos through anonymous social media sites. Last week, it issued a statement warning of a growing danger that social media could be use to mete out vigilante justice and asking people to “resist the temptation to take justice into their own hands.”
Criminologist Robert Gordon, who heads the International Cyber Crime Research Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says there is no way to stop people from collectively using social media as a form of punishment since there is no effective way to police the Internet. He says that in this case, people are angered and embarrassed by the riots and do not want to wait for months while individual cases work their way through the courts.
“The population isn’t interested in intellectual arguments about whether it’s appropriate,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘Why do we need a trial when we can see very clearly what this person was doing. What’s his argument going to be?’”
But Ms. Samuel argues that allowing what amounts to an “online mob” to continue sets a dangerous precedent for how social media can be used, and could lead to a new kind of police state. She says that images posted on social media could easily be altered and should not be taken as hard evidence, and adds that by using social media as a form of justice, “we are legitimizing the idea that law enforcement should be able to do what it wants.”
“Precisely because social media is such a powerful tool of mass mobilization," she says, "it has the potential to turn selective cooperation with law enforcement into a mass culture of surveillance."