Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tracking Down Anti-Gay Attackers or Shaming Pakistani VIP's Off Planes - Social Media's Evolving Cultural Impact

Surveillance footage of the attackers who beat two men in Philly on 9/11/14
Twitter's almost instantaneous ability to reach a vast online audience is rapidly evolving in ways that even founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass probably never imagined.

Like social media itself, co-founder Evan Williams has been quoted as saying Twitter has evolved from what the founders originally thought would function as a platform for "status updates and a social utility", to what has now become a legitimate organic "information network."

It's had a huge and lasting effect on journalism too; remember, the capture of Bin-Laden was first leaked when an IT professional working late looked out his window and started live-Tweeting about helicopters hovering over the compound where US Navy SEALs were in the process of a highly classified mission.

More recently in Missouri live Twitter feeds from reporters and citizens were able to circumvent un-Constitutional media blackouts by Ferguson police.

Now an interesting story I first read about on the BBC News Website on Wednesday sheds new light on a fascinating and innovative application for Twitter; the ability to help police track down people wanted in connection with crimes.

According to the article, last Thursday on the anniversary of 9/11 a large inebriated group of seemingly clean-cut men and women (see surveillance photo above) were out in Center City Philly when they confronted two men ages 27 and 28 on their way to dinner and began hurling homophobic insults at them.

At least two members of the group then physically attacked the two men; fracturing bones in the face of one of the men that will require surgery. When the Philly police posted surveillance video of the attackers on Youtube, a Twitter follower named Greg Bennett posted still photos of the attackers and another Twitter user from Philly reposted the photos to his followers leading someone else to identify the restaurant near where the incident occurred.

At least some of the attackers were then identified after their photos were ID'd on Facebook and the information was forwarded to the Philly police who were scheduled to interview some of the suspects today. That's essentially an investigation that took place on social media (via Youtube and Twitter) that actually led police to find these violent homophobic meat-heads.

For a much more lighthearted look at the evolving ways social media is impacting our culture we turn to Pakistan. Have you heard this hysterical story about former Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik being booted off a Pakistan International Airlines flight by the passengers because he was late?

The tardy Rehman Malik
Social inequality is a huge issue in Pakistan, just as it is around the globe; and that's no joke. Apparently a major source of irritation to average Pakistani travelers is when VIP's delay packed airline flights for up to two or three hours until they show up at the plane.

Can you imagine sitting on a plane at the gate at O'Hare for two hours waiting for Miley Cyrus or Paul Ryan to show up?

Understandably the good people of Pakistan have had just about enough of this inconsiderate phenomenon. So when ex-minister Malik recently showed up two hours late for flight PK 370 from Karachi to Islamabad, the passengers teed off on him.

In what was surely a symbolic eruption of rage against average folk being forced to wait until VIP's decide to show up, the crowd verbally accosted the surprised Malik as he approached the plane's entrance from the jet way.

In fact, one passenger videotaped the confrontation and posted it on the video sharing Website Daily Motion where it was viewed over 53,000 times as of Tuesday. Now it's on Youtube and the story is blowing up on the Web. Malik himself took to Twitter to claim he wasn't responsible for the flight delay. Riiiight.

You GO Pakistani air passengers! Maybe they can teach us something about the power of demanding social change.

Seriously, click the link above and give it a watch. All kidding aside, despite the myriad problems associated with social inequality, politicians around the globe have shown little interest in doing anything about it; being that the folks on the quality side of inequality are probably either sending them fat campaign checks or doing them favors of some kind.

Perhaps this viral video of the Pakistani passengers confronting inequality en masse is a sign of a new and more expansive function for social media - as an agent for much deeper and more meaningful societal change. 

Get to the gate on time; or else...

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