Fact-Checks

Social Medias Complex Connection to Crime and Justice

Social Media has dominated multiple industries over the last two decades. The evolution of social media has been fueled by the human impulse to communicate and by advances in digital technology. It’s about establishing and nurturing personal connections in a way we couldn’t before. However the rise of social media has also had an unanticipated effect. 

Social Media and Criminal Prosecution 

By Summer Brown 

The rise of the Information Age has led to increased output of sensitive content across social media platforms. At times, this content is violent, criminal, illegal, and even dangerous. As the world continues to witness a rise in the spread of this content, law enforcement has begun to find new ways in which it can be used for investigative purposes and prosecution. This data offers a new way to solve crime and even deliver justice. Despite that, many individuals have begun to question if this is also an opportunity to further marginalize communities that are vulnerable and stigmatized. Gang cases in particular, are a group in question.

For example, the recent indictment of the Atlanta rap gang, YSL or Drug Rich Gang on federal RICO charges demonstrates the use of social media profiles being used in prosecution. A portion of the indictment sources the gang’s social media posts as demonstrations of criminal intent. In particular, rapper “Young Thug” has allegedly escalated with others via social media confrontation, which ultimately supports some of his accusations.

Since the indictment, fans of the rap gang worldwide have expressed backlash against the evidence being used in the case, calling it a violation of the first amendment and a disproportionate attack on Black men.

Howard University criminology professor, Sonia Pruitt, said that the evidence used from social media is valid. Since social media has become a new way of tracking the actions of others, she believes that individuals should monitor what they post.

“I believe that it is justified that an individual’s social media posts be used as evidence in criminal prosecution, especially if those posts are available to the public. If they are not available to the public, there should be a search warrant involved in obtaining them,” said Pruitt. “However, everyone should know that anything placed on social media has the potential to be distributed widely. People can cut and paste and take screenshots of pictures without the poster’s permission. There is very little standing in the way of anything being used against someone who posts it on social media, so it’s up to individuals to be cognizant of what they post.”

The implementation of social media being used in criminal prosecution is clearly still taboo. Its further use may be dependent on local laws and regulations. Meanwhile, its widespread acceptance still waivers worldwide.

Social Media’s Link to Offline Harassment 

By Kalee Blake 

Maya Angelique used to enjoy twitter as much as anyone else. She liked engaging with her followers and posting photos. In 2020 the platform turned into her worst nightmare. Angelique made a comment on a post about black men not being attracted to black women and 10 minutes later, she was bombarded with death threats, insults and her personal information being exposed.

Talib Kweli, a well known rapper and producer, took offense to Angelique’s words. He started an  online campaign, threatening her life, family, and career. Fans of Kweli followed suit and began harassing Angelique. They showed up at her house, and created so much disturbance at her mother’s job that she lost it. Angelique had to go into hiding and moved her loved ones multiple times. Her story, unfortunately, is not unique. 

Hundreds of people get “doxxed” on a daily basis. Doxxing is described as the searching and/or publishing of private or identifying information on the internet, usually with malicious intent. An article by Billboard earlier this year stated “The malicious posting of private information about you, your family, your photos or other details online — without your consent — for the whole world to see.”

Social media is a powerful tool but it has also proved to be a weapon against anyone who dares to disagree. Celebrities like Jay-Z and Paris Hilton had their financial documents, credit cards, and banking information leaked. People usually engage in media for an escape but recently they’ve become fearful of being exposed. Your location, address, and family information could be taken from you and put at risk just because someone else thought it was what you deserved.

The Relationship Between Crime and Social Media: The January 6 Attack

By Nylah Lee

Rioters outside of the Capitol Building on Jan 6, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

The capitol attack of January 6, 2021 prompted a slew of analyses regarding social media’s relationship with crime, as the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack began to build a case against the organizers and perpetrators. In an attempt to weigh the factors contributing to the organization, enablement, and incitement of the attack, the January 6 Committee demanded records from Twitter, Reddit, Meta (parent company to Facebook) and Alphabet (parent company to Google) detailing the disinformation spread on their platforms that could have resulted in what many would categorize as domestic terrorism. Due to “insufficient” responses, the January 6 Committee issued subpoenas to the aforementioned social media companies.

The lack of action taken by social media platforms has been met with both praise and scrutiny. When it comes to violence and harassment seemingly enabled and perpetuated by social media, a conversation typically emerges surrounding the viability and morality of limiting harmful sentiments on social media. This argument can become muddled without a proper understanding of the parameters set by the First Amendment to the constitution.

“There remains a common misconception that social media is subject to First Amendment constraints. This is certainly not the case, and the platforms do not “censor” speech – as that is something only the government can do,” explained Peter Suciu of Forbes.

However, according to information provided by associate professor of law, Seth C. Oranburg of Duquesne University “the platforms are also allowed to exercise editorial discretion without incurring liability for third-party content (users’ tweets, posts, grams, videos, hashtags, threads, etc.),” 

While the platforms cannot sustain liability for any post inciting or promoting the attack, they could still be faulted for doing nothing to stop the spread of false information that resulted in the riot.

Adhering to research confirming that large groups tend to facilitate groupthink, social media platforms provide us with some of the largest and most frequent instances of the phenomenon. Without the proper moderation and fact-checking provided by the platforms themselves, sentiments fueled by misinformation and disinformation spread, potentially resulting in harmful demonstrations like the January 6 attack.

Does Social Media Play A Role In The Death of Rappers?

By George Hamilton

Photo Courtesy of Myself on Adobe Express

It was about 5:00pm on Sunday March 31st, 2019. My mom, my dad, and myself are at the LA Galaxy-Portland Timbers game for my mom’s birthday as well as mine. All of a sudden, we all get a notification on our phones saying Nipsey Hussle was murdered in front of his clothing store. We were all in disbelief of the headline on our phone, but this hit close to home not only because of his successfulness as a rapper, but his willingness to give back to his community.

Nipsey Hussle’s death was the beginning of some of the youngest rappers in the industry being murdered. Whether it was just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or being killed for posting their location, rappers in the modern era have always posted on social media, primarily Instagram, where they are or were at. 

Hip Hop is one of the best genres of music ever created, but at the same time, one can argue that the amount of violence and crime caused from hip hop makes it one of the worst genres of music.  All of hip hop isn’t violent, and some of the older generation will say that rappers in the 1980s and 1990s were trying to stop the violence in their communities through hip hop, but there was this shift in the 2000s and beyond where one could say hip hop has been detrimental to the youth.

Over the last four years, the rap community has lost Hussle, Pop Smoke, XXXTentacion, Young Dolph, Houdini, MO3, JayDaYoungan, DrakeoTheRuler, PnB Rock, and most recently Takeoff as well as many others. DrakeoTheRuler’s tragic murder was a stabbing at the Once Upon A Time Festival in Los Angeles, but except for his murder, all of the deaths have one thing in common, shootings.

Speaking with one of my best friends Ajay Ascano, he said that celebrities need to be more careful when being out and posting because anything can happen. He explained, “Rappers, and celebrities in general, have all this fame, money and influence that everyone wants. Rappers will go out and post where they are, but a person may come to that exact location and try to steal or even kill them, as we saw with the Pop Smoke murder. So rappers and celebrities just need to be careful of what they post and where they post because everything can be taken away in an instant.”

Whether it was gang related, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, drug use or poor background, hip hop has a higher rate of homicide than any other genre, ranging from five to 32 times higher. In 2011, a study done at the University of Sydney by Professor Dianna Theodora Kenny showed out of the 13,000 deaths she examined, 51.5% of deaths related to the rap industry were murders.

Of the many rapper deaths that I had found in a four year time-span, Pop Smoke’s death was the only one where posting his location resulted in his death. Pop Smoke’s death was one that had an effect on many rap fans because he was 20 and becoming a mainstream artist. However, you can also say that him being young and rising fast in the industry caused him to think that he wasn’t going to get caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of my other friends, Donnell Scott, said that as average citizens, all we can do is hope that rappers and celebrities keep the right company around them. Donnell was a big fan of Pop Smoke, but he believes his fast rise to popularity in the rap industry made him a target. “If you look at his rise to popularity, he had one popular song and then his first album did well, and when you are a young, successful rapper on the rise, there are people in this world who will sadly do some harm to have a piece of the success you have. With that kind of popularity, you have to be careful with what you are wearing, what you post and posting your location because there are people out there willing to do anything for money or fame, even if it means throwing their life away.”

Someone who knows a lot of celebrities and knows a lot of people who work with celebrities is Marjorie Williams, a lawyer in the entertainment industry under the business side. She explains that while she works with so many people with fame, she knows how careful they are with what they post. “Working with these celebrities across the entertainment industry, I know how careful they are with their social media pages. Yes, they will be careful with what they post, and if they do post somewhere they are at, they will rarely post the location of where they are. I think more celebrities, rappers especially, need to be careful with this because what most rappers rap about are negative things, so it is better to just be careful.”

There isn’t a successful way to correlate the deaths of rappers with social media. Social media is sometimes used to find to people who murdered the rappers, but that is in part to those people posting themselves or items online, so the target they already created on themselves becomes even bigger. One can make the argument that social media is not the real problem with rapper deaths. The only thing experts would say is to make sure to keep your prized possessions and sometimes even your location private, because people envy your success, and sometimes that unfortunately makes you a target.

The Kia Boyz and the Influence of Tik Tok

By LeAnne N. Roberts

An alarming new TikTok challenge led to an 85% increase in car theft in the city of Los Angeles compared to 2021, according to LAPD Chief, Michel Moore. The “Kia Boyz” trend, which gained popularity earlier this year, began in Milwaukee and quickly began spreading across the Midwest in criminal group chats and online forums. The trend has now sparked increased car theft nationwide thanks to countless videos on TikTok and YouTube.

More than 1,600 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen in 2022 because of the social media challenge – dubbed “Kia Boyz” – which taught people how to break in and steal these vehicles due to a loophole in the manufacturing. These two brands were specifically targeted because of a defect that allows them to be easily hot-wired with a standard USB cable. The models affected were sold between 2010 and 2021.

Internet crimes present a challenge to those who don’t frequent online spaces. In the case of Vida Poyner, she was unaware of the USB hot wire crimes involving Kia and Hyundai despite driving a 2010 Kia Soul. TikTok is a platform where much of what you view is content that AI generated to reflect your interests. On the other hand, this same AI generated content allowed young people to have an avenue into criminal activity. 

Alonie Dowden, a 2011 Hyundai Sonata driver, says, “Once, when I was leaving the gym, I noticed a group of kids near my car. They looked like they were just playing around near my car, but I immediately thought they may have seen the Hyundai symbol on my car and attempted to steal it. It didn’t happen, but the anxiety is still there.” The issue of safety and TikTok influence is a rising topic in parenting forums because of the app’s sharp redirection from children’s programming to more adult content. Information intended to protect people from criminals can inspire young people to commit crime. 

The damage done to victims is often unable to be repaired in the courtroom. Victims of grand theft auto report high rates of PTSD. The development of the juvenile criminals is certainly stunted by the life-changing direction their crimes will lead them. The precedent these crimes set should be a warning to social media developers to modify these applications and avoid more criminal crises. 

Violence Effects on Black People

By: Alecia Taylor 

While there has not been a study about the mental effects of celebrity deaths on social media, there has been a study on police brutality effects. 

A 2018 study co-led by Atheendar S. Venkataramani found Black people who were exposed to police brutality killings take an average of four mental health days–1.7 more than usual. To put this perspective, Black Americans take 55 million mental health days per year. 

When contacted, Venkataramani declined to comment about the recent effects of celebrity deaths and its connection to the study. 

With social media’s influence on Black entertainment, the violence of many deaths, such as Takeoff of the rap group Migos, have been on display for the world to see, creating a new cause of mental health issues within the Black community. 

“It really messes me up, man,” said Robert Hudson, an aspiring entertainment, film and TV director. “Especially me being a music guy. I see these people as heroes. I forget they’re human and they aren’t invincible. To see them dead,  bleeding out or going through something graphic…it’s like seeing a family member die. It’s like seeing a cousin die because the relationship is that personable.” 

The blame for the violence we continue to see might not solely fall on social media but it is fair to say the information age we’re in consistently magnifies our trauma.

November 29, 2022

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