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A Surreal Game of Cops and Bloggers

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

By Pamela Simmons


More items for Health & Safety

As I write this, a hostage situation is playing out in downtown Pittsburgh. A man by the name of Klein Michael Thaxton is holding a hostage on the 16th floor of a building. He is armed and has two duffle bags with him, the contents of which are not known.

 Klein Michael Thaxton

 wpxi.com

Hostage situations are never a good thing, but what makes this one different is that while Thaxton is holed up, he’s updating his Facebook page. I’ve written before about social media saving lives, but this is the first case I can remember where a criminal is using social media to communicate with the outside world.

 Gateway hostage situation

 facebook.com

We’ve all seen real-life situations on the news and many a detective show where hostage negotiation involved just two parties: the hostage taker and the authorities. Not now. Not in 2012. Now the dialogue is between Thaxton and virtually anyone who wants to play hostage negotiator. And that’s getting in the way of the authorities.

 Gateway hostage situation

 twitter.com

It’s not just civilians who are using technology to throw their hats in the ring and potentially influence the outcome of volatile situations like this one. It’s the media, as well. WPXI, the local NBC affiliate, was asked to remove the live stream of the drama from its website. The station complied.

From Spectator to Player

Not only does social media allow us to live other people’s dramas in real time, but we can even become part of the drama itself. Nobody knows what could set this guy off, and anyone and everyone has access to him, courtesy of Facebook.

Authorities asked people not to correspond with Thaxton, and Twitter was ablaze with threats of criminal charges brought against those who do, all under the hashtag #gatewayhostage. Thaxton’s Facebook page was eventually blocked, but not before hours and hours of views and exchanges.

 Gateway hostage situation

 facebook.com

Five long hours later, this situation was resolved peacefully. After a visit from Thaxton’s girlfriend, he emerged from the building in handcuffs with no casualties on his conscience. He released his hostage unharmed.

Sadly in these times, this is just another of too many hostage situations, but Thaxton just showed us that the conversation isn’t private anymore. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can jump into the pool and, at present,  the police can’t do much more than request that they get back out.

Social media has taken that very private access out of the hands of the law and plopped it squarely into the lap of John Q. Public.

Social media is etching itself into our lives more and more all the time, and as one person tweeted today, “Thaxton just showed us that no one can last more than an hour without checking their Facebook.”

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Pamela Simmons

As Director of Marketing at Technology Publishing Company (publisher of PaintSquare, JPCL and Durability + Design), I’m here to share my thoughts about marketing, social media, and how the digital revolution impacts the protective and marine coatings industry and the world in general.

SEE ALL CONTENT FROM THIS CONTRIUBTOR

   

Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Ethics; Facebook; Online tools; Social Media; Twitter

Comment from John Fauth, (9/24/2012, 8:56 AM)

Social media as a modern version of the telephone? Not by a long shot.


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