12 Sep 2017

The Shock Value of Viral Videos

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

Almost every day we see a new shocking video on social media. Some of them are fake but many of them are real and they are disturbing. Last week we saw the Uber vehicles being petrol bombed, this week it is another video of a learner being subjected to cruel corporal punishment at a local high school. But how long will the public be able to withstand the shock value of these videos before they become passé?

There is no doubt that the public becomes desensitized very quickly to images and videos of this nature and this may be a pity as videos such as the one of the school teacher assaulting the pupil need to draw the ire of the public. Whilst it would be better for a video like that to be taken to the authorities, sometimes if there is social media outrage it kickstarts the process of the authorities visiting schools which may be forgotten under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately when the public is bombarded with these kinds of images on a daily basis and when there are constant allegations of fake news more and more people are becoming cynical about what they see on social media. It is also important to remember that the social media universe should not play the role of the police and prosecutor and judge regarding crimes that they perceive have been committed and documented on platforms such as Facebook.

Perhaps the lesson from this is that these videos can bring awareness to situations that may not have been in the spotlight or can alert people to danger (such as with the petrol bombing of Ubers in Sandton) however they can never be a replacement for law enforcement itself.