Social media & voice of the people!
Can nothing be kept secret from the people anymore?
Yesterday morning Dominic Grieve, the attorney general took legal action over online pictures which claim to be that of the James Bulger killers, pictures which have been widely spread since Feb 14. Claiming that “Providing details of the new identities of Venables and Thompson or their whereabouts is prohibited – this order applies to material which is on the internet.”
“The injunction in place prevents publication of any images or information purporting to identify anyone as Jon Venables or Robert Thompson. The terms of the order mean that if a picture claims to be of Venables or Thompson, even if it is not actually them, there will be a breach of the order,” the attorney general’s office said.http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/feb/25/attorney-general-action-pictures-bulger-killers
In terms of individual protection from the online mob, it’s being taken seriously for the first time. The relationship between social media and justice is something that the public and the forces that be are having to think about in real terms. In lots of ways social media is the undiluted voice of the people – but are the people with the loudest social media voice and following, the voice of the population at large? Or are those more liberal souls immobilised by the force of the haters?
Charlie Brooker’s television series Black Mirror continued last Monday night with an episode that made exponentially more sense of this idea, to the point of nightmares for some and delight of others. “White Bear” provided a dystopian, technology fuelled view of a population where the public becomes judge, jury and executioner facilitated by the use of social media. Our protagonist, Victoria Skillane wakes up in a dark unfamiliar house, not knowing who she is and is taken on a trial of torment, as she is followed by a silent army of people filming her on their iphones, ignoring her screams for help as she is chased, shot at and clearly petrified. She is eventually told her fate on a stage not dissimilar to X-factor; bolted to a chair and forced to watch news footage of crimes that she apparently committed (killing a young girl with the help of her fiancé). Eventually, she reaches the original house, where her memory is painfully erased, ready for the next day at “White Bear Justice Park” where a new lot of silent mind assassins will follow the journey of public revenge, and pay for the privilege to watch her pain.
One of the scariest and most ironic things about this terrifying program was the amount of people tweeting #blackmirror thinking that Brooker has discovered the ideal treatment of child killers, in particular that of the Bulger killers – the stream of users re-tweeting the image that may or may not be Jon Venables was re-ignited.
“Justice” is becoming more accessible and interactive through widespread social media sharing of court judgments and the televising of proceedings. The antiquated hunger for literally seeing justice being done seems to be coming back, as the “hang-em and flog-em” brigade have new platforms for their hate (or trolling, as it is called when it is applied directly twitter).
The White Bear episode of Black Mirror provided an interesting view of how modern-day thinking about punishment could go down. Today’s decision for legal action on a photograph which has now been viewed millions of times is a very small step into what I predict to be a very big problem, as the detachment and reach of social media directly effects the justice system. How is it ever going to be properly moderated as the public’s appetite and number of social media users increases?
Nikki Fox – @foxynikki