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Available Expert - Public surveillance and the Blue Jays beer toss

Friday, October 7, 2016

Queen's University researcher Scott Thompson is available to comment on the surveillance and privacy implications that have been raised in the wake of the Toronto Blue Jays wildcard game against the Baltimore Orioles, when a fan threw a beer can at Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim. An image of a fan alleged to be the individual who threw the beverage has been circulated online, including by Toronto Police - raising questions about the mob mentality of social media, the possibility of a false identification and the balance between public security and personal privacy.

"The incident may seem like just another instance of foolishness, but it is more than that," says Dr. Thompson. "It points to a developing trend where the lines are becoming blurred between surveillance, social media, and law enforcement. We are seeing that social media has enabled a new capacity to crowd source public identification, the judgement of guilt, and the application of punishments of specific and general deterrence - that is, punishments that work to hurt the individual, as well as those that work to ensure that the general public sees the punishment of the individual and chooses not to do that same thing in the future."

Dr. Thompson says the social media mob mentality runs counter to how our system of justice was designed - removing the presumption of innocence and allowing the public at large to act as judge, jury and sentencer. 

"Moving forward it is obviously well past time we stop throwing things at public events and take a stand against any racist comments, but it might also be a very good time to look into policies and legislation that will work to ensure that the fundamental rights which form the basis of the criminal justice system are not eroded by this new trend of social media mob vigilantism," he adds.

Dr. Thompson is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Surveillance Studies Center in the Department of Sociology at Queen's University. His research focuses on the relationship between classification, governance and surveillance technologies. He is available for interviews on Friday, October 7.

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Chris Armes (613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or chris.armes@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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