Social Media Power?

We’ve been discussing the impact of social media on criminal trials and “due process” over the last few days, especially with respect to the Jodi Arias fiasco out in Arizona.  We have thought it a difficult subject warranting further review.

But it appears the police have no doubts whatever about the “power” of social media, and think parents should warn their children about it:

Three students have been charged in connection with alleged bullying incidents at Greece Athena High School.  Chief Patrick Phelan of the Greece Police Department made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at police headquarters…The incident was then posted to Snapchat…”People should talk to their kids about social media and the power that it has,” Phelan said.

Maybe these charges would never have been brought but for the fact that the alleged culprits posted video on the internet.

Does that matter?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Social Media Power?

  1. mn

    I think there is no doubt the charges would not have been brought had it not been for evidence in the form of a video. But the bigger question is if the authorities would have taken such a firm stand against this type of behavior had the target of it not been a sympathetic, handicapped victim. What would the approach be had the target of bullying been a less sympathetic character, say a defendant in a murder trial? Would the authorities then stick to the same principle and condemn the behavior? It’s easy to take a stand when confident it will be a popular one.

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    • Interested Blog Reader

      Good points, both of you. I think it is important that a stance against bullying be taken. We don’t know the victim’s particular handicap/disability, do we?

      But, my real question here is this: is Phelan saying bullying is okay as long as you’re not stupid enough to post it on social media and that’s the message parents should convey?

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      • mn

        No, Interested, I don’t think we do know much about the victim. Naturally, the suggestion that’s it’s a helpless fellow is emotionally upsetting. But to me that should not be the point, the point should be whether we want to tolerate the behavior. If the answer is no then it should be no for everybody, regardless who’s on the receiving end or who the perpetrator happens to be. Imo, that’s why the chick with the scales has a blindfold on.

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  2. I discussed this briefly with a woman this morning, who agreed when I suggested that involving the police and criminal charges in something like this would simply not have happened 40 years ago.

    So it seems to me there’s two things involved here. First is that bad behavior by children and teenagers, generally even when it amounts to criminal conduct (the bully who takes a kid’s lunch money is guilty of robbery, in every jurisdiction I’m aware of a felony, but of course historically has not been treated that way), was not routinely handled as criminal conduct until quite recently.

    And second, the availability of video of gross behavior or criminal conduct seems to add an irrational dynamic where people get more outraged by something because they saw it, as opposed to the very same thing that they didn’t see.

    I guess I see both the knee-jerk resort to criminal processes for juveniles; and the influence publicity and video have on the very decision to bring criminal charges in the first place as, you know, unhealthy.

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