Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Police using YouTube

In Chapter 3, Levinson discusses “viral videos gone bad” (Levinson, 71). He expresses that although brutality and violence recorded and posted on YouTube can be removed, the harm done to the victims can’t be undone. However, Levinson states that such videos can help bring the offenders to justice. An article by USA Today titled, “Cops using YouTube to find criminals,” gave examples of such cases. On Dec. 14, a street fight broke out in Suffolk, Virginia. Those involved fled by the time the police arrived and witnesses weren’t talking. However, police got a lead from cellphone video recordings of the fight posted on YouTube. Seven men were easily identified from the clear footage and were taken into questioning. Similarly, Los Angeles police used videos posted on YouTube to identify participants in the riots following the June 2009 NBA Championship.

Levinson poses the interesting question of whether or not people are actually empowered by the technology. Would these people commit these crimes or similar acts if YouTube didn’t exist? In November, Minneapolis police arrested four individuals for assault after viewing the videos they posted of themselves committing the crime. The fact that these four people willingly posted the assault on the web makes one question their motives. However, I agree with Levinson that there is no real evidence to claim technology’s role in influencing violent behavior.


  1. I think the role technology plays in catching/reporting crime is interesting. When I interned at the New York Post this summer, they would often use photos taken by cell phones from ordinary bystanders to include with the article about the random fight that broke out. They even would sometimes take screen shots of the videos posted on YouTube by these bystanders of the crime scene. This shows how media often converges and how new technology is changing both the way crime is handled by the police and covered by the media.

  2. Surveillance, both by authorities but also by citizens, certainly can play a role in fighting crime. For a society like ours, this seems like a good thing, mostly, but in an authoritarian society where the crime may be criticizing the government, maybe not so much a good thing.