Monday, October 8, 2012

Social Media in Time of Crisis

The 'oversharing' on social media has raised a few questions this week.  It's one thing to have a website and tell thousands of complete strangers every detail of your life.  It's another to use the social media to stalk, or possibly to commit crimes.

As a Hostage Negotiator for the police, I had to deal with the 'barricaded gunman' or the 'distraught boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse' that were threatening to take their own life or that of another.  It is law enforcements opinion that it is in everyone's best interest that the police are allowed to do what they are trained to do, and not have the news reporters or a Facebook friend telling the person their opinions or reporting police movements, etc.

What are your opinions on the police being allowed legally (or have the technical ability) to shut down a persons media contacts--telephone, computer, Internet, Face Time, Twitter, etc?


  1. As much as I want law enforcement to be able to do it's job, I think the old Ben Franklin quote applies here: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." The more difficult it is for the government to interfere with citizen's lives and lines of communication, the better. The kinds of situations you're describing pose much less of a threat to society than the very real threat of tyranny that increases the more citizens cede their power to government. Would you agree?

  2. Scott, in principle I agree and I have to say that I've always felt that police are much too politically used. How do you feel about the authority given to police to shoot and kill a person? That is the ultimate loss of liberty. Are there situations where you would feel the police should be given the authority to keep a barricaded gunman from making contact with anyone?

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  4. Rick, doesn't the government - and therefore the police - already have the capability to intercept messages passed over wireless broadband? What's the state of our current wiretapping laws? It's been a while since I read the Patriot Act and some Obama's approved-in-the-dark-of-night legislation.

    I realize you're putting this in a theoretical context, but maybe the question of what we think the government "should" or "shouldn't" be able to do would be more constructive if we first establish what the government can already do in a barricaded gunman scenario - or any other scenario where an armed person poses a threat to himself or others? You would know better than I. As a layman who may have just watched too many movies, I'm almost inclined to think the police could just label the guy a "terrorist" and do whatever they want ... though I realize that's probably too simplistic.

    I'm not asking these questions to be snarky or disrespectful to law enforcement. I'm asking because I think debates about ideals - what we think should or shouldn't be - often keep us from confronting and understanding what actually is. If our government already wields as much power as I think it does, the police in a barricaded gunman scenario would be limited more by their technological capabilities than by the law as it currently stands. Though, again, I realize you're a greater authority on this, so I'm asking rather than declaring.

    Could the police "tap into" the gunman's broadband and see his communications, thereby giving themselves a tactical advantage over him? Could they make a call to the local internet service provider and have the guy's internet shut down? Do local police have that authority? If not, would it be terribly difficult to get federal authorities to "assist" by making such a call or providing such technology?

    Your question is: Are there situations where the police should keep a gunman from contacting anyone? My answer: Yes, I would imagine there are. However, if such authority is made into law (and, I ask again, hasn't it already?), are there situations where this authority could be abused? The answer is obvious. Are situations where that authority is abused of greater concern to society as a whole than the occasional barricaded gunman situation? Well, I think so ... but I'm not a law enforcement officer who has to deal with such scenarios.

    I say all this in the spirit of friendly debate. I'm living an Evansville and just started reading THE CRUELEST CUT, which I'm enjoying.

  5. Facebook friend telling the person buy instagram followers cheap their opinions or reporting police movements, etc.

  6. Though, again, I realize you're a Get Free Vimeo Views greater authority on this, so I'm asking rather than declaring.