What affect does social media have on violent crimes?


NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL-TV) – Experts are looking at what role social media plays in recent violent crimes that have been broadcast or live streamed.

The horrifying video and shooting in Cleveland left the nation shocked.

Sadly, it is not the only case Americans have seen over the past few years.

In August 2015, a reporter and photographer in Virginia were shot and killed by a disgruntled former employee. In his hand, a phone recorded the entire crime.

“Social media becomes a player here because it becomes a low barrier of entry. Many people can access it,” Dr. Sheryl Kennedy-Haydel, a mass communication professor at Xavier University said.

As terrifying as it is, having that access Professor Kennedy Haydel said, evokes an emotion because it hits home for several people.

“When murder happens, and it’s not being filmed on social media, it, unfortunately, it doesn’t take center stage. But when it’s being used by social media, it takes on a life of its own,” she said.

Even when things end tragically or situations are terrible, Dr. Haydel said it could also promote change. For instance, United Airlines changed their response after the incident went viral where a man was hit and dragged off of a flight.

“Because if we even tracked the statements that they initially shared, it was more so, ‘Well we asked and he didn’t get off. But as more and more video was played, they had to step up and Kennedy-Haydel said.

For the latest case in Cleveland, it can be argued that the suspect’s initial posting of the killing may have lead to the case’s eventual end. Ultimately an employee at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania called authorities after recognizing the suspect in the drive-thru.

“I feel like if those crimes are not broadcast or they’re not high profile, celebrity profile, then they don’t get the added attention that a regular individual that’s murdered on the streets of New Orleans would get,” Tamara Jackson, Executive Director of Silence is Violence said.

Jackson sees the effects every day. Last Thursday, just three days before the Cleveland murder, a 75-year-old man was shot and killed in the 7th Ward. His death is still under investigation.

“A lot of the folks here share those sentiments about what happened in Cleveland. But, we need to have that same energy in the community,” Jackson said.

In response to the shooting, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday, “We have a lot more to do here.”

Zuckerberg also expressed his condolences to the family of the elderly man and vowed to do their best to prevent tragedies like what occurred in Cleveland from happening again.

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