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Facebook Detectives and Citizen Investigator


A woman tracks down one thief, calling  on Facebook friends to help  and another thief builds up a Fanpage, literally and metaphorically giving the finger to authorities.

Why do we resent social networking sites assisting China but cheer when they help British authorities? Is it because China is “bad” and Britain is “good”? Or veiled racism? Do value systems clash on different social networks because of the different communities (countries) they represent?  Don’t look at me, I don’t have the answers to – I just know that “right” and “wrong” have all sorts of grey areas. The ‘net loves grey. Everyone is an amateur lawyer.

A couple of New Year Cheer stories. Oh ok, not really.

Story #1 Woman retrieves stolen items by using Facebook.

Yes really. A woman, Carla Pillo Mote, had her bag and wallet stolen by a drunk guy at a bar. She asked the barman who the guy was (credit cards FTW!). Woman puts out an APB (All Point Bulletin, should be called ASB All Social Bulletin) on Facebook. They track the guy down, get into his apartment, retrieve goods, make friends on Facebook. Police relieved. You really have to read the full story at MediaBistro.

Story #2 Thief laughing at police while building Facebook Fanpage

For three months now, Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch has been on the lamb (ed: lam?) from London authorities after escaping from a Suffolk Bay prison in September. The convicted thief has been using Facebook to taunt his pursuers, posting pictures of his various exploits — which include activities like sex and cooking.

You can follow his exploits here on Facebook. Also some anti-Craig Lynch pages.

This is for the HATERS out there who are starting up some fire with the fans about me hitting or robbing an old lady get a fuckin life you worthless shits, i got respect and haven’t touched or robbed an old lady. now move on and find a life ya shits

Such a charmer…

I am concerned about Facebook helping out the British police. Why do we cheer when social networking sites stymie the Chinese yet insist they help British/UK police? Is that raciscm? Or is it just that we have a different value system in different cultures/communities?  One rule for all, or two rules – one for those who we agree with and another for those who are different?

… and thus the New Year starts.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

24 thoughts on “Facebook Detectives and Citizen Investigator

  1. Could it be that the UK scores +10 on the democracy scale, while China scores -7?

    In the UK, we’re reasonably confident that if the police gets someone, they’ll get a fair trial (or have already had one, as the case may be). In China, not so much, especially in cases where it’s claimed (or obvious) that the main transgression was political speech.

  2. Veiled racism???!!! China is an authoritarian dictatorship jailing those who question the one party rule with a court system that can sentence people to death with closed door hearings.

    Yes, all governments have serious weaknesses and shortcomings, but the British people do have the ability to change the ruling party from time-to-time, lobby in public about bad laws and appeal for justice in a system intended to give them a fair hearing. Citizens of the PRC do not.

  3. social website used to apprehend criminals/used by criminal RT @SilkCharm Facebook Detectives and Citizen Investigator http://bit.ly/7Rrh95

  4. Western rhetoric, much? Democracy is still pretty much a theory not a practice. Unless you think that the US funding Osama bin Laden, interfering in other countries while doing so, then going to war, and staying at war against the will of it’s people is just a one off inconvenience.

    “Fair hearing” in any community (online or country) means knowing and obeying that community’s rules. We don’t see the inequity in our country because it’s the norm. I personally wouldn’t throw stones at China until I was sure my own glass house was in order…

    1. I think I know what you’re trying to say: China bashing for the sake of China bashing is bad. I get that.

      I don’t get the racism part from this example though. Is it racism against people living in China, the Chinese government, or all Chinese people everywhere?

  5. Laurel, with respect, you know not whereof you speak.

    The fact that pretty much any country can improve does not negate the fact that there is a real difference between countries. There are countries that have freedom, democracy and justice; and there are countries that have repressive regimes (or turmoil or war). There are countries with pretty much every shade of grey in between, and sometimes it’s difficult to report objectively; but there is a real difference. The UK and the PRC are very different in this respect, well beyond the margins of error.

    As for your particular examples — the first three are completely irrelevant; democracy is about domestic affairs, not interference or even war with other countries. The last — actions taken against the will of the people — is in fact a blemish on democracy; but the mere fact that you, on the other side of the planet, know about such dissent speaks volumes. There may be exceptions to freedom, democracy and justice, but they’re just that — exceptions. In repressive countries, dissent is suppressed, sometimes brutally but always effectively, and the exception is when we do hear about it.

    Ultimately, the fact that you have difficulty conceiving of this difference is a good sign; Australia has been pretty good on all these counts for pretty much its entire existence, with improvements as standards evolve. There are things we can improve still, and occasionally there are excursions, but overall it’s pretty good. Others have not been so lucky.

    1. actually I was basing it on my experience in China and elsewhere in Asia. What looks harsh to us works there. And stuff we take as normal can look weird to outsiders. This goes for other countries too. Democracy the theory is vs democracy in reality.

      Amusing incident in Morocco – an Muslim woman asked me if it was true that my father forced me to go to work at around 18 years of age? Yes actually he did – any son or daughter not employed or at uni by that age is a bit suspect in Australia. In her eyes, I was mistreated. I really must tell off dear ol’ dad!

      My point still holds. Upholding the law of one country yet blocking another country jeopardises that country’s sovereignty. No matter how we feel about the rules, it should be uniform across the board – once we Facebook slips into grey areas and becomes a Guardian of Social Mores, we are all in trouble… whether the citizens of a country want an (admittedly) flawed democracy or are happy with the status quo, it’s not up to Facebook or any other social network service to decide that their ideals are the best!

      1. Cultural and social differences are really quite irrelevant to the question of whether or not a government is repressive. Tanks rolling over protesters “works” pretty much everywhere, in that it effectively (if brutally) quells dissent, and it’s reprehensible pretty much everywhere.

        It’s not really appropriate to blame the victims by suggesting that it’s their cultural or social ideal to be thus repressed.

  6. I’m from Finland living now in Egypt.
    What a difference!
    Two totally different worlds! You can’t or shouldn’t compare Egypt and Finland or any European other country.
    In Egypt you can’t write or say what ever you want, no freedom of speech…
    Many journalists and opposition politicians are in prison or escaped abroad. Torturing and humiliation by police happens every day.
    People are poor and hungry. Prices go up but salaries not. But. People are nice and polite. Always ready help.
    They would like to have more democracy here. But who would like to give up from the power and weatlhy life to help those who are less fortunate?

    Today on my blog ‘I love sharing but I hate stealing’…

  7. Laurel.

    I think your question on racism is incorrectly framed within the context of the wider discussion.

    First, I think it needs to be said that when you say “we”, you mean people outside of China and not those inside of China.

    Second, there certainly is an imbalance between the press on China’s law, regulations, and enforcement on the internet. On the one hand you’ll have a high profile negative case of a laywer/ NGO leader be arrested for their actions on the internet while at the same time a equally positive “potential” story of netizens working to solve a crime or out a corrupt official, and each will be reported differently. CNN will be more likely to cover the former, while domestic sources are likely, or more likely, to cover the latter.

    Which I think is behind your questions on veiled racism?

    Where I believe the context needs to be reframed for the greater context though is that there are two issues that are specific to China that draws out these stories:

    1) When it comes to the internet, China actively monitors content, and removes “offending” content for sometimes very arbitrary purposes. Within this context, one can draw a dotted line back to China’s leadership and their concerns over stability, however much of the content removed is done now by the service providers themselves… so that adds a layer of complexity as the content may not necessarily offensive. I may just be that the service provider is playing it safe.

    2) Where China’s law enforcement system enters the question, the internet is heavily monitored for “threats” just like the US and UK, but China certainly has less transparency on what content attracts attention, and certainly less when it comes to due process of law and severity of punishments.

    These two issues are ones that, in my opinion, are probably what draws much of the criticism and belief in the external organizations (media, NGO, etc) that things need to be changed. So, in that sense, while it is certainly about “China”, it has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, and I would say that more than anything it is about transparency and journalists (professional and otherwise) looking out for their own.

    R

  8. Laurel,

    I am sorry if you feel that I hijacked your words with my Tweet, that was certainly not my intention.

    Perhaps I do not understand what you are saying.

    From your posting, my understanding was that you are concerned there may be “veiled racism” (your words) in singling out China for getting and using information obtained from Social Networks.

    Your full phrase: “Why do we resent social networking sites assisting China but cheer when they help British authorities? Is it because China is “bad” and Britain is “good”? Or veiled racism?”

    My Tweet reflected my understanding: Is it ‘veiled racism’ to criticize China for interfering with the Internet? @silkcharm thinks so: http://bit.ly/6FykMZ

    Your Tweet reply confused me a little: “@ThomasCrampton don’t hijack my words. I believe that SNs should block ALL governments from private info. Blocking JUST China is racism.”

    To my knowledge there have never been any Social Networks in China that have prevented the government from getting information. They would be shut down immediately. On the contrary, I am quite sure that Renren, QQ and the other Social Networks in China readily cooperate with the Beijing government. One of the more prominent cases was when Yahoo! gave the identity of a blogger, Shi Tao, who ended up in jail simply for sharing information.

    The problem faced by non-Chinese Social Media is something quite different – The government will not let them operate in China.

    Yes, I share your distrust of governments and your wish for privacy, but if a government is forcing information out of a Social Network I would prefer it to be a country that has higher respect for due process of law and habeas corpus than the PRC.

    In any case, thanks for sparking a lively discussion! Let me know if you are up in Asia anytime soon and we can discuss it over a drink or meal.

    Tom

    1. Done! I’ll be in Beijing later in the year. G&T please 😛

      And for everyone – I think that a “nation” of 350 million people (Facebook) needs to set firm guidelines, and alliances, and “extradition” pacts with countries. Then saying “yes” to Britain and “no” to China over similar issues will be explained as treaty agreements and not be open to allegations of “one rule for the West and another for the rest of the world”.

      Incidentally, did you know that recently in Australia, our secret service knew that some Australians were going to be picked up for drug smuggling in Indonesia and did nothing (some of them have now been executed). THAT is the sort of issues that need to be resolved – “local law” whether it’s Australia or Facebook versus a nation’s sovereign rights including capital punishment for drug running. (It’s big deal here in Australia as we don’t have the death penalty, but, say, Texans won’t care, I guess)

  9. Facebook or Twitter or may be it any other social media but why is it successful? One should need to propagate a positivity arround!

  10. Mark, by reposting pornographic content (child or no, text or images) you are part of the problem, not the solution. I’m removing your post for that reason. If you have an issue with Lonely Planet I suggest you contact them, privately with the details, don’t do the publicity for the troll….

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