On April 17 this year, Twitter user @hxngwei uploaded a video of an unidentified teenager vandalising a bicycle owned by bike-sharing company Ofo.
In the video, the teenager is seen kicking, stomping and throwing the bicycle on the ground. The video garnered 1,800 retweets within 10 days and a police report has since been lodged.
dude wtf is wrong with you people? not my vid lmao pic.twitter.com/hxtDvo2fsk
— frsh (@hxngwei) April 16, 2017
With social media, a new wave of crime known as ‘performance’ crimes has emerged. Videos or images of individuals engaged in crime are uploaded on social media to garner attention, with the perpetrators knowing full well that their identities are being captured on camera.
Internationally, some performance crimes are of a much sterner nature. In April, CNN reported that suspect Steven Stephen went on a vengeful rampage, shooting an innocent passer-by while livestreaming on Facebook. His livestream drew heated responses from audiences and garnered international coverage.
While it is clear the Stephen is the main murder suspect, the intentions of him livestreaming such a horrific act online is indeed haunting. What fuels such intentions of posting an act of performance crime on social media? Furthermore, to what extent are individuals who film such an act complicit in the crime?
In the case of the Ofo bicycles, the possible intentions of fame and attention derived from being the subject of the video not only fuels narcissism, but also a deep-seated and perverse desire for validation online.
To what extent do you think the person who is filming the act of crime liable to punishment? We reached out to a few young Singaporeans for their say.
“While I’m hesitant to place equal blame on the cameraman, as he himself didn’t commit the act of vandalism, he’s definitely complicit in the crime as well.
This act of ‘performance crime’ relies heavily on feedback received – they perform the crime, the cameraman records, and they get whatever attention it is that they desire. In this case, the cameraman should also be held accountable, though I’ll leave it up to law enforcement to decide to what extent he should be punished for the crime.”
– Aron Goh, 23
“Based on the video (apparently taken from the vandal’s snapchat), I believe the person filming the act should be liable to punishment as he acted as an accomplice by encouraging the person committing the crime.
This can be seen by the fact that the person in the video looked to the person behind the camera for confirmation that he was filming before engaging in the act (facing the camera and asking “can ah?”) — suggesting that the cameraman was fully aware of the crime about to be committed.
While there are other aspects that need to be considered such as their motive for committing the crime (perhaps it was in reaction to a problem with the bikes) as well as the reasoning behind the need to film it, it does not change the fact that it happened. Hence, both parties should face consequences for their actions, the question is, how severe should these consequences be?”
– Darra Sin, 21
“If anything, shouldn’t he be thanked as the video he filmed will help identify said youth help Ofo take action against him? If we were to hold the person filming liable, shouldn’t all bystanders involved in the argument between a couple and an elderly man at Toa Payoh also be held accountable for not standing up for the victim and confronting the couple?”
– Bryan Tan, 22
Without action, you cannot be an activist. The next time you decide to pull out your phone to record people arguing on the train, a couple hitting an old man in the hawker centre or teens vandalising property, consider how you may be implicitly involved in this very act of crime.