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SXSW Interactive 2014

Citizen Dicks: Solving Murders With Social Media

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, the subReddit group /r/findbostonbombers was launched, tossing a dragnet across the internet and catching both good and bad information in the process. The crowdsourcing effort was able to identify clues before the FBI, but critics deemed it a witch hunt. Regardless, the ability of normal citizens to help gather information for criminal cases was undeniable. In the aftermath of an incapacitated teenager's rape at the hands of two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, a blogger took to the internet, finding tweets about the crime from witnesses, and taking screen grabs that police would never have seen. These were the two cases that made the news, but right now there are many more digging deep into the web, searching for clues and justice. Where we once had the citizen journalist, we know have the citizen detective, uncovering information that the official investigators either don't have the resources - or skills - to find.

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  1. How are citizen detectives using the internet and social media circles to help find murderers, rapists, missing children and clues for unsolved crimes?
  2. What are the legal boundaries of citizen detection and how far can a citizen push on the web until it becomes entrapment or personal privacy invasion?
  3. What lessons can we learn from the Boston Bombing and Steubenville events, in which citizen detectives and bloggers posted evidence on the web and in some cases implicated innocent individuals?
  4. Law enforcement is slowly embracing social media to help solve crimes, but some have been critical of users doing their own detective work--even going as far saying they were "complicating" an investigation. How can law enforcement work with citizen detectives toward the common goal of catching the bad guy?
  5. What are some new tools and technologies on the web and in mobile that will be able to aid both professional and citizen detectives in finding information about unsolved crimes?



Bill Jensen, henchman, Bill Jensen Industries

Meta Information:

  • Tags: crime, social media
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Dual
  • Track: Non-Profit and Activism
  • Level: Intermediate
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