Watching the television coverage of the rioting this week its was incredible to see just how many people were standing on the edge of the trouble, with their iPhones, Blackberries and other smart-phones, held up in the air pointing in the general direction of what’s going on.
Using this pose I casually refer to as the “beam me up Scotty”, from Star Trek stance, they continue to shoot pictures and video, then quickly upload it to FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube or any number of other sites.
What amazes me about this proliferation of images hitting social media sites, websites and blogs is how easily people disregard what in any other context they would consider their privacy.
The very people who vociferously object to their children being photographed in the school play happily shoot and upload images to social media networks and blogs, where they can be copied and shared by anyone. This includes private detectives working for insurance companies and newspapers, police, customs, revenue and other law enforcement officers, social service and border agency officials to the other extreme of thieves and paedophiles.
When any image is uploaded to one of these sites, it’s been published and once you’ve clicked share it’s too late to prevent it being stored on servers all over the world and cyberspace.
With the police now trawling social media sites for pictures of rioters, even the most camera shy criminal may well find themselves identified and receiving an early morning call.
Professional communicators like television cameramen and press photographers have been attacked by rioters for filming them, but the hundreds of bystanders have already photographed the unguarded moment when they adjust scarves and balaclavas and what’s more these pictures have more chance of being seen, since publication is guaranteed, where much of the professional material ends up metaphorically, on the cutting room floor or in the trash bin.
It’s ironic that mobile phones and social media networks are criticised and blamed for facilitating the organisation of the rioting and public disorder yet this very same media is being used by the police to identify capture and hopefully prosecute the perpetrators.
Quoting Newton’s Third Law, for every action there is an equal reaction – just maybe we are seeing the perceived negative actions of social media being turned into a successful and positive reaction by ensuring the prosecution of these aggressors.