Stop sharing pictures and videos of random people online


People have changed the way they consume and distribute media since the rise of the internet. Technology is changing rapidly, and the development and design of social media platforms have made it extremely easy to share digital content – ​​images, videos and text – with others. A video aimed at a small group of people can easily go viral online within hours and may even transcend the originating platform at that time.

The Online Etymology Dictionary defines “viral” as “the feeling of suddenly becoming very popular through sharing on the Internet.” First used in this context in 1999, the word was used in the context of marketing and described online phenomena that appeared to resemble the spread of a computer virus.

These days, it’s pretty common to come across photos or videos of everyday people doing mundane, funny, or even socially unacceptable things (like this video of a man shaving on the train). Often, these videos were filmed without the permission of their subjects and then posted on the internet to elicit a reaction or go viral. Sometimes videos of people with a clear mental breakdown or PTSD are described as “acting out.”

These clips often come with subtitles that match a specific narrative the audience wants to project about the topic(s). Some of them may be considered harmless or even related in some cases, and the intention of the person who saved and downloaded them may not have been malicious. However, whether these videos are funny or relevant, these people usually end up subject to scrutiny and comments based on often false and exaggerated preconceptions.

Despite the fact that more than half of the world’s population uses social media, many people are still uncomfortable with their photos or personal information being accessible to people outside of their immediate circle. This may be simply to maintain a level of confidentiality or in some cases to protect oneself, especially given the rampant stalker culture fostered by the internet and social media. People should be able to control their image and presence online. Filming without permission and then sharing it online deprives them of their privacy and autonomy. When the world watches or shares these videos on various social media platforms, it’s easy to forget that these are real people with emotions and lives outside of the stories millions of viewers have created. They are real people whose lived experiences have been distorted, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

“Random acts of kindness videos,” which have surged in popularity on TikTok over the past year, rightly demonstrate how even basic acts of decency have become a commodity in the age of social media. These videos usually receive millions of views. Popular content creators or social media stars are participating in this trend by performing unexpected acts of kindness, such as giving flowers to an elderly woman sitting alone, paying for groceries for a stranger, or giving money to a homeless person. -shelter.

It’s hard to tell how authentic some of these acts are when the whole thing is filmed and uploaded to a social media platform where the influencers have a large following. While these actions may have actually helped these strangers, it is condescending to film people in their supposed “time of need” and post it on the internet, usually without their knowledge or consent. It turns needy individuals into curiosities that will be remembered, dissected, and analyzed by random people on the internet forever.

A recipient of one of these “random acts of kindness” complained about the way the influencer treated him, saying it upset him and left him feeling like a desperate person in need. help. He had no idea he was being filmed and only found out about the video after his family and friends around the world started offering help. Other “recipients” who found videos of themselves online have come forward to say they felt dehumanized because the acts were only done for internet views and fame. Tech journalist James Hennesy sums it up perfectly: “It’s a huge ethical minefield. The idea that we’re being watched all the time by people just trying to turn our lives into content is something that I think people naturally reject.

Another downside is that these videos are quickly turned into memes or used as reactions in conversations. As these memes spread, they usually take on a life of their own and are used in a variety of contexts unrelated to the topics. While some people have benefited from the quick fame gained from these viral moments, for others things take a turn for the worse. People behind memes or viral videos frequently face cyberbullying, death threats, or outright harassment from strangers on the internet. It even got to the point where their personal information, such as home addresses and bank account numbers, leaked online.

It is becoming a bigger problem and social media platforms have started implementing policies to address it. Twitter announcement in November 2021 that it would revise its privacy policy to prohibit the sharing of photos and videos of people without their consent as part of its efforts to align its security policies with human rights standards. Facebook and Instagram have similar policies, but most of the time their responses are automated, making it almost impossible to delete those photos or videos. While these measures are absolutely necessary and a step in the right direction, it should be a courtesy for people not to film strangers and then share the footage online without their consent.

In some cases, filming without explicit consent can be advantageous or beneficial. Videos of misconduct by officials or people experiencing various forms of injustice can be used as evidence. Another plausible scenario is when the person being filmed is clearly committing a crime. Additionally, street photography and videography can play an important role in documenting seemingly historically insignificant events that will be useful in the future. The baseline is that these videos are rarely made for the sole purpose of going viral and taking advantage of people’s flaws and vulnerabilities.

It’s important to remember that, for the most part, the internet is forever. People who have been filmed and posted without their consent often do not have the option to permanently delete the videos. The incredible speed at which images and videos are shared on social media also makes this extremely difficult. It should also be noted that the common practice of filming and sharing digital media of strangers online unwittingly contributes to the rise of mass surveillance states. Susan Sontag makes a powerful statement in her book “On Photography” that deserves to be remembered at all times: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability and mutability. Precisely by cutting out this moment and freezing it, all the photographs bear witness to the relentless melting of time.

Although laws vary by country, the general consensus is that filming other people in public places is not illegal. Recording is technically legal as long as the person is in an area where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy, such as on the street or on the train. However, just because something is legal does not make it ethical, and people’s privacy and autonomy must always be respected. Empathy is always important. While it can be tempting to record people, whether to elicit comments from a wide audience on social media or just to share with a friend, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the people being recorded and think about how you would feel if you were the only one. on the reception side.


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