Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Viral Violence: a new kind of crime.

The twenty first century has been marked by developments in medicine, science and technology. Importantly, the last decade has seen a vast growth in social media platforms from Twitter to Facebook through to Instagram and Snapchat. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to be connected to lots of different people all around the world in real time.

Social media can be a powerful thing. It can be used to create change, raise the profile of an issue, connect to others around the world and even just make life a bit more fun. Campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter movement gained much momentum and support through mediums such as Twitter and lead to the issue of inequality in the United States being put on the government’s agenda day after day. Social media has a lot of power and is often seen as a positive development.

However, as they say, with great power comes even greater responsibility. Many incidents have occurred where social media has been used as a display for violence and crime. In August 2015, a man used Periscope to stream the murder of two journalists in Virginia. In Georgia, 12 year old Katelyn Nichole Davis committed suicide which was streamed on Facebook’s live-streaming feature and only recently, in Chicago an 18 year old male with special needs was tortured on Facebook Live in what is thought to be a politically and racially motivated attack. Shockingly, in such circumstances little was done by viewers.

Social media therefore comes with a catch. It can be used as a medium to incite hate, violence and has generated a new form of crime. The question that arises now is how we deal with these new types of crime. How can we stop such incidents from happening and how can those who commit such crimes be held responsible? Moreover, should the social media platforms themselves be held responsible for allowing their networks to be used to encourage violence or do we hold ourselves responsible for ever allowing such hate and violence to exist in the first place.

As an avid user of such platforms I believe it is vitally important to be aware of these dangers and the effect of viewing such content. Its implications alone on wider society are grave and therefore it has never been more important to be internet safe. Bringing to light this issue is one way to be aware and start the increasingly imperative dialogue needed to solve this issue.