Street fights are nothing new — I know from my time in middle and high school, fights attract massive crowds due to the drama, the realism and the unpredictability. Now more attention is focused on the videos of these fights, since they are uploaded to popular video sharing Web sites and spread like wildfire, often syndicated, duplicated and reposted without the victim’s permission.
Even then, Bum Fighting became popular but it failed to garner the media coverage as it has now. (I suspect the studio that produced BumFights suppressed negative media attention by paying the “actors”.) This evening, on my local news, a local street fight was video taped and is likely to be uploaded YouTube along with the homogeneous spin went with it to scare parents. It didn’t surprise me, but I couldn’t help but notice in the report, law enforcement still isn’t fully equipped to handle this type of abuse on the Internet.
I don’t think that further legislation is necessary, since if content is illegal and a Web site is failing to disclose it, it’s Obstruction of Justice. Yeah, yeah, I know CDA 230, but criminal activity is criminal activity. The way to solve the problems relating to assaults being posted on YouTube is to educate law enforcement to better understand how those Web sites work as well as understand IP addresses. Additionally, they must be willing to enact rapid-fire subpoenas to the uploaders and recent participants. (What does one do when doing something juvenile — they show their friends.)
On Craigslist, the popular free online classifieds Web site, a woman posted an advertisement for a hitman in the “freelancers” section to murder the wife of a man she engaged into an affair with:
“Linscott is accused of asking people who responded to her ad to “eradicate a female living in Oroville, California,” and she provided additional information on the intended victim, including her physical description, age and employment address. On two separate occasions following the November ad posting, she offered payment of $5,000 upon completion of “the eradication task,” according to court documents.”
“[Jim] Buckmaster said the arrest demonstrated the vigilance of Craigslist users, who are urged to report fraud and scams on the site to keep it clean.”
Craigslist credits the removal of content within their community thanks to the wisdom of crowds. A majority of their users are highly engaged and keep the site clean of any illegal, unethical, or otherwise “junk” content. Users can flag content accordingly, and if content is flagged enough, it is removed. At least in this case, it appears that the FBI and Craigslist cooperated to identify the poster and bring justice.
What’s the lesson here? Well, be mindful of the fact you can be tracked, identified, and arrested if you engage (or publish) illegal activity online just as if you left fingerprints on a murder weapon and a note. However, as social media brings about social problems; it will be a while until we can expect law enforcement to keep up with the demand due to lack of bandwidth.