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Social Media Debate: Privacy Vs. Policing


Recently, a video from Tallahassee posted to a social media app used by college students, sparked a sexual assault investigation. But in the digital age tracking unseemly, and possibly illegal behavior through such apps is getting harder: and it forces law enforcement to walk a fine line between the right to privacy and policing.

The social media app yeti is filled with cute puppies, and kittens, and videos of college students speaking about homework and gas money. But it has a less innocent side, including sexually explicit content and an abundance of drugs. But users may not view it that way.

“When you talk to students about they see their friends and themselves using these platforms, its almost entirely just entertainment," says Florida State University Professor Warren Allen. He researches how people connect through social media platforms.

Allen says it’s the confluence of two tends—social media is becoming more visual. The other trend that’s growing is anonymity.

“I think that’s part of the appeal. That you can be quasi-anonymous and talk about things that are locally relevant and relevant to your social life, even if they aren’t the types of things we want our names to be associated with," he said.

Recently, the Tallahassee Police Department began investigating a possible rape video that appeared on Florida A&M University’s yeti. The video was posted anonymously, but TPD was able to find the person who took the video by working with the Yeti company. Allen says the level of anonymity goes both ways—it provides a free space for conversation. But it also makes it hard for illegal behaviors to be tracked. Allen says it’s part of the larger debate on privacy:

“On one hand, we want law enforcement to have a way to go after the perpetrators of these crimes," he said. "But does that mean we want them to have unfettered access to all our internet communications? Where in the middle are we as a society going to accept that balance? It’s a big, broad question that comes to bear on these cases and cases of national security alike.”