twitter vigilante

kissing couple in vancouver

i don’t think many people will defend what happened in vancouver yesterday. when your favorite sports team knows defeat, don’t be a sour loser. there is such a thing as showing class even in defeat. this should go without saying. it has to be one of the most pathetic reasons for a riot, dumb, short-sighted, and most likely alcohol was the one great motivator. nothing justifies looting, vandalizing and street fighting for this reason.

however what I witnessed on twitter while it happened shocked me even more.

a few days earlier, on turntable.fm, I had met a woman from vancouver. she seemed interesting and funny, so i started following her on twitter. when the riots started she was working at her startup business in the vancouver downtown area. it sounded as if the whole thing unfolded right in front of her eyes and windows, very near her office. naturally she started to tweet reports, warning people about the tear gas, and voicing her opinion regarding the riots. she was very angry and could not believe the stupidity of the vandals and looters. she was shocked by the violence. so far so good. i have no problem with that.

but suddenly the tone changed, the remarks became gradually more sarcastic. and finally her tweets turned to what can only be described as an act of internet vigilante. she started to post uncensored images of rioters, alongside threats. and she even asked for help to identify them to turn them into the police. it unfolded gradually, but turned into full-on right wing vigilante rhetoric quite fast.

this is terrible, and even worse than what the rioters and looters did. we should leave it to the police to find the culprits. if we start to use the social networks to assist the police, we are in real trouble. it is their job. the most we can do, if we do know a rioter personally, is try to convince them to turn themselves in. if we are so inclined.

just think about it, some guy might be drunk and/or participate due to peer pressure. yes, it gets heated, things escalate, stuff brakes. but the violent police reaction certainly adds to the escalation. they do not use the de-escalation tactics most european riot cops use so successfully these days. but so far no real harm is done, only material goods are destroyed. and that’s just stuff, stuff that can get fixed and replaced. insurances will cover most of it. the hypothetical guy we just described would probably feel guilty the next day and try to make it up somehow. but if now, due to posting his photo on the internet, this same guy gets prosecuted, who knows what might happen? his career might get destroyed, relationships and family situations can worsen…

it is embarrassing for such a stupid riot to happen in your own city. these vandals, rioters, looters can piss people off. that is understandable. but to actively denounce them to the police and thereby turn into a snitch is a step that everyone should consider much more carefully, than “oh, i’ll just tweet this”.

disclaimers: i am aware that this is not a new phenomenon, that social networks have been used for vigilante purposes for a while now. however, this was the first time someone i follow did such a thing. hence me belated reaction.
i do not provide links to these tweets, nor will i name who did this. i am also aware that it will be quite easy to find her from the screenshots i post here. but i do want to illustrate what i am talking about. and really, it is on twitter, not posted anonymously, anyone can find it.
in my opinion she puts herself at considerable risk posting these things without using an anonymous tweet account… but hey. that is up to her own judgement.

was it staged?

About Jan Zuppinger

Jan Zuppinger has been writing this blog since 2002. He likes to grow vegetables. He likes to eat them too. He has opinions on everything, but sadly no one cares. Jan Zuppinger is not joking, just joking, he is joking, just joking, he's not joking. *click.