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Video, YouTube, and the UCLA Taser Story
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2006 08:28:20 -0500
Begin forwarded message:
From: Lauren Weinstein <lauren () vortex com>
Date: November 18, 2006 12:11:00 AM EST
To: dave () farber net
Cc: lauren () vortex com
Subject: Video, YouTube, and the UCLA Taser Story
Apart from the obvious "use of force" aspects of the UCLA taser
story, which took place in front of a large number of witnesses,
there's another far-reaching aspect of this case worthy of
This incident would likely have remained only a media "blip" if
not for the presence of the recorded video, and means for it
to be quickly and freely distributed widely.
We saw an earlier version of this phenomenon with the Abu Ghraib
prison scandal. If not for the digital cameras that snapped those
photos, Abu Ghraib would have remained at most a footnote in
history. The photos gave the story a sense of physical reality, and
the news media were the means of distribution for that reality that
brought it to the attention of the world.
Since the arrival of YouTube (now owned by Google), Google Video,
and other video sharing services, we now see -- for better or worse
-- independent distribution of "revealing" videos of all sorts,
essentially instantly hitting the Net well before media outlets have
had time to get into the loop in many cases. The implications of
this for maintaining the integrity of our information sources is
unclear. Is a given video really what it purports to be? What does
it mean in context? Who really posted a given video? What was
their motive for doing so? In the absence of witnesses, are we
viewing an enlightening masterpiece, or falsified propaganda?
In recent days, a number of videos showing police activities that
would not otherwise have been visible have appeared on YouTube, and
have provided the same sense of reality that we saw with Abu Ghraib,
with even more immediacy.
The ubiquitous presence of cell phone cameras makes the visual
recording of controversial events an increasing probability.
Immediate Internet distribution outlets for such videos give them a
potential global audience in a matter of minutes -- the YouTube
video of the UCLA tasering incident has reportedly already been
viewed well over 800K times.
Such serious applications are probably not really what the
developers of YouTube, Google Video, or cell phone camera systems
initially had in mind when they deployed their products and services.
It's impossible to know where this all is leading us, both in terms
of potentially exposing abuses -- and relating to violations of
The only thing we know for sure in this regard is that there has
been a seismic shift caused by these technologies, and the sooner
we start to seriously consider the implications, the better off
we'll all be.
lauren () vortex com or lauren () pfir org
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
- People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
- International Open Internet Coalition - http://www.ioic.net
- California Initiative For Internet Privacy - http://www.cifip.org
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
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- Video, YouTube, and the UCLA Taser Story David Farber (Nov 18)