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Mary Palmer
HONOR 3374-002 - Privacy in a Digital Age
Professor Randy Dyer

Has the Internet Replaced God?
He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake but he isn’t Santa Claus,
he is the almighty God. God has been used as a symbol to keep in check through all hours of the
day and night. “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have
whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (New Jerusalem
Bible Luke 12:3) . Whether that God is Allah, Buddha or Jesus Christ believers have kept
themselves in check under an omnipotent eye for want of reward or fear of punishment but in the
modern age there is a new eye watching over us.
In this paper, I will describe how the omnipresence of digital recording devices and the
use of social media to distribute images and videos have made much of what used to be private
public, has vastly increased the availability of evidence for use in criminal and civil cases and
has modified people’s behavior to the point replacing the need for an all-seeing God to check
people’s misdeeds.

The Steubenville Rape Case
In the early morning hours of August 12, 2012, a 16-year-old girl from West Virginia
attended a party in Steubenville Ohio. She got inebriated and then either left the party with a

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group of male high school football players or was forcibly taken from the party by these boys.
Videos by these boys were taken of two boys sexually assaulting the girl over several hours.
These videos were taken in the back of a moving car and, later, in a basement. The victim awoke
later that morning, naked and in a stranger's basement with no memory of the assault. None of
the actual assault happened until after the victim had lost consciousness.
The boys took cellphone pictures and videos of their acts. The videos showed vaginal
digital penetration (defined as rape under Ohio law), transportation of the unconscious victim
and the boys urinating on the girl. The jovial attitude of the assailants was uploaded and
documented in social media, with images and cell phone recordings of the sexual acts entered on
Facebook, Twitter and on text messages.
High school and city officials, as well as members of the self-proclaimed “Rape Crew”
attempted to delete evidence of the assault from their social media and phones, allegedly to
protect the reputation of the city and the school. However, a local crime blogger gathered
together as many posts as she could from that night and posted them on her blog. The case
gained national attention when a member from the hacker group “Anonymous” published an
incriminating video that he had retrieved from one of the boys cell phones.
Two boys were originally charged with rape and kidnaping, due the fact that the
assailants transported the victims unconscious body to several locations without her consent. The
kidnaping charge was later dropped. Two boys were charged with rape. One of the boys was
charged with “the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” because of pictures he took
of the nude girl.
The Steubenville Rape criminal case was entirely put together by evidence uploaded to
social media. Over four hundred thousand pieces of evidence were implemented in this case,

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from just 13 cell phones pictures and video that had been posted to social media. The two boys,
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were tried as juveniles with no jury. The
prosecution’s criminal evidence against Mays and Richmond consisted largely of the posts and
tweets found on the internet as well as a few eyewitness accounts. The defense discounted the
eye witness as have being heavily influenced by the online frenzy following the crime as well as
the harsh judgment of the court of public opinion. Both the defendants were found delinquent of
rape and received a minimum sentence of 1 year in a juvenile detention center. Mays was also
convicted of a second felony charge of using a minor in nudity oriented materials for taking and
distributing photographs of the victim in various states of undress.

The Rodney King Beating – March, 1991
Rodney King was a black taxi driver born in Los Angeles in 1965. In 1991 King was
engaged in a high speed chase with police. When police caught up with King he was cuffed and
beaten by multiple police officers. The brutal beating was videotaped by a witness, George
Holliday, from the balcony of his house, unbeknownst to the police officers. Given the state of
video recording technology in 1991, the camera used to record the crime was not discreet. Nonethe-less the police officers were unaware of the recording. Mr. Holliday sent the video to a local
TV news station, KTLA. The video documentation of this incident gained national attention.
Four officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The
trial resulted in acquittals of all four officers. Outraged at the verdict, some black residences
rioted in 1992.

#Jadepose – June, 2014

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A similar incident occurred in June, 2014 to a 16-year-old named Jade. Jade attended a party in
Houston, Texas with some friends. She was given a drink that she suspected was drugged. She
remembers being taken upstairs, but had no further recollection of the events of that evening

(Leicht, 2014).
It wasn't until the next week, when she saw photos on Twitter of her half-naked,
unconscious body. She was sprawled across the floor. The Tweet was tagged with the Twitter
handle #Jadapose. According to what she put together, after she lost consciousness, 19-year-old
Clinton Onyeahialam and another 16 year-old boy sexually assault Jade and as posted pictures of
her unconscious naked body to Twitter. This inspired a trend known as #Jadepose which reach all
corners of the nation. #Jadepose became a Twitter handle where people all around the country
post pictures of themselves imitating the pose of Jade’s unconscious body in the incriminating
photographs. Jade and her family went on MSNBC saying that they hope this trend inspires new
cyberbullying laws.
The older boy, Onyeahialam, was subsequently charged with rape and the minor boy was
remanded to a juvenile detention facility. The prosecution against Onyeahialam consisted of the
photographs that were loaded to Twitter and a subsequent confession by the assailant.

The UC-Davis Pepper-Spray Incident
This incident occurred on November 18, 2011 during an Occupy Movement
demonstration at the University of California, Davis. UC Davis student protesters occupied parts
of the campus in protest of various social maladies. University police officers, after asking the

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protesters to leave, pepper sprayed a group of students as they were seated on a paved path in the
campus quad. Bystanders recorded the incident with cell phone cameras. A video of UC Davis
police officer Lt. John Pike pepper spraying demonstrators spread around the world on various
social media as a viral video. A photograph of Lt. Pike pepper spraying some of the student
protestors was taken on a cell phone by a UC Davis student. The photograph shows Lt. Pike
spraying a line of seated, non-confrontational students in an apparent casual attitude. The
student’s photograph became an internet meme.

Some Commonalities
For over a century, telephones were used for calling people and research was done using
books. Now-a-days everyone carries a camera, your face can be recognized by people that don’t
know you and companies make a profit out of selling information about you.
Not only was the core prosecutory evidence for the cases cited above almost entirely
digital and made available through social media, but their presence on social media inspired the
American public to look more closely at rape culture, mob mentality and the treatment of
minorities. The advent of social media, as illustrated in these cases has made private things
public and inflated the reach and vigor of the court of public opinion.
In the Houston case of #jadepose, the evidence for the prosecution would not exist but for
the incriminating photographs posted to Twitter. The sexual assault victim, Jade, having been
unconscious during the assault, would have continued in ignorance. Since the teenage assailants
were obviously interested in showing off their masculine domination, Jade may have become
aware of the assault through rumor or confession, but there would have been no solid evidence
worthy of a criminal prosecution.

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For both the Steubenville and the #jadepose rape cases, these incidences, had they
occurred prior to the new millennium would probably not have gone to trial. The female victims
were unconscious and unaware of the sexual assaults. The only evidence of the criminally sexual
misdeeds was waking up the next day naked and in a strange house. Had these women gone to
the police, what would they have reported? The fact is that the Steubenville and #jadepose
sexual assaults would have been a private matters, known only to the perpetrators and would not
have been investigated or tried in criminal court. The private doings of some high school football
players and Houston party goers would, at worst, been word-of-mouth braggadocio locker talk.
The ubiquitous availability of image recorders, the propensity of people to share images and the
capability of immediate and wide distribution of images through social media made this private
matter a prosecutable criminal case.
The Rodney King incident is another variety of mischief, however it still illustrates the
effect of the existence of cameras and social media. While social media and pocket cameras were
in their infancy in 1991, the Rodney King beating still illustrates that, with cameras and an easy
system to distribute images, the “brotherhood” of police officers cannot cover the misdeeds of
individual badged malcontents. These police officers were acquitted of criminal acts, but not
because of the hearsay evidence of fellow police officers. The video was made available for
third-party, objective scrutiny.
The UC-Davis case is not one that lacked for witness, so it represents another kind of
public act whose impact and public perception has been altered by the pervasiveness of social
media. The university security officer who was filmed pepper-spraying protesting students may
have had his actions reviewed by university officials after-the-fact. It is not unusual for
organizations to hold “lessons learned” meeting after a high profile event. In this case, a

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photograph of the officer became an internet meme. People began pasting the part of the photo
with the officer onto all sorts of photographs: Da Vinci's Last Supper, a photo of a baby harbor
seal, a Charlie Brown cartoon. The unmitigated casual appearance of the officer superimposed
onto the most sacred and innocent social icons elevated the adverse public reaction to the
officer’s actions. The public outcry was so severe that the University of California hired an
image consultant to “scrub” references and articles about the pepper-spray incident from the
internet entirely (Brandson-Potts, 2016)
Americans activity appears to be approaching a point in which anything could be
potentially digitally documented at anytime and audio and visual records shared and widely and
quickly distributed world-wide. The Steubenville and #jadepose rape cases, the Rodney King
beatings, and the UC Davis pepper-spray incident’s digital evidence and social media sharing in
these cases inspired the pubic and made it impossible for these incidences to be ignored or swept
under the rug.
The most consequential impact of the surge in social media’s capabilities to distribute
images quickly and widely is on the added availability of prosecutory evidence in criminal cases
that would have, in the past, failed to make it to trial for lack of evidence or been difficult to
achieve a conviction. The Steubenville and #jadepose rape cases would not have gone to trial.

Some Implications of the Surge in Social Media on Privacy
Of course, there are some important disadvantages to the ubiquity of cameras and the
quick and wide distribution of digital images. In criminal cases, American law seeks justice. One
of the ways justice served is for a defendant to be tried by a fair and impartial jury. The wide

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distribution of images that relate to a criminal case makes it more difficult to procure an unbiased
In July of 2014, a Chicago police officer shot and killed a 16-year old teenager, pulling
the trigger on his service revolver 16 times (Bellware, 2015). Chicago city held onto a dash-cam
video of the incident until a federal judge ordered its release a year after the incident occurred.
The release of the video resulted in protests and violent riots in Chicago and calls for the
resignation of Chicago’s mayor. Criminal charges have been filed against the policeman
involved. A fair and impartial jury will be difficult to seat. In this case, it may be that the court of
public opinion has appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner. With the advent of social
media and the wide distribution of images, it may be most often the case that the American
public will make conclusions and issue its own verdict with whatever information is available
Such an impassioned and foolhardy mind set has made it difficult to find people that are
not already emotionally invested in the case. This becomes a problem in cases like the Casey
Anthony trial. This woman was arrested for the murder of her daughter and fast found guilty by
many internet users.
With everyone knowing everyone's business also comes the concern of revictimization.
With the now popular share of private details of cases of a sensitive nature such as that of
Steubenville comes the danger of revictimization. The internet makes it easy to access
information and share opinions, this is one of the things that makes the internet great. It also is
what makes the internet dangerous especially for for victims whose cases have been made
common knowledge by the advent of social media.

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Putting a victim on a screen makes it easier to dehumanize them as well as discount their
experience. Everyone and their dog had an opinion on the Steubenville rape case and not all of
them favored the victim. Those who wanted to “protect” the defendants in this case not only
discounted the victim's experience but also openly mocked her online effectively re victimizing
It is also important to note that “the internet” is not just our peers, it is also our
employers, our government, our law enforcement as well as big named companies. In fact
companies have evolved so much in our digital age that their are now companies who
employ themselves solely through selling the data that we generate online, these companies
are called Data Brokers. Data brokers work for companies that collect information about people

from a wide range of sources in order to make a personal profile. These profiles are then sold to
companies that desire personal information in order to market product. Data brokers use this
information to help create targeted ads which are efficient to both the company and the
consumer. Data brokers also help prevent fraud. Four of the major data broking companies sell
risk mitigation products. These products help companies ensure that Jane Doe of 123 Main street
who wants to buy a boat is actually Jane Doe.
More sensationally the technological watchful eye has been pointed at the police
department. As is evident in the Rodney King case as cameras become smaller and less
expensive, the more people have them and the more police brutality is caught on camera. Misuse
of power in the police department is nothing new but the advent of portable discreet cameras has
made this behavior public.
The recent revelations and advancements in technology have made police mounted body
cameras both plausible and advisable. The use of these body mounted cameras create a clear

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unbiased recording of events. This footage can be used to record crimes, generate evidence and
expose corruption.
We have seen what can happens when digital evidence of a crime falls into the wrong
hands in the case of Jade and Steubenville but there's also no denying the power of public outcry
in such cases.

How Does the Ubiquitousness of Social Media Affect People's’ Behavior?
The rapid growth of social media is accelerating the day when one has to assume that
anything said or done where other people can be present will be filmed and potentially
distributed. It may be more often the case that people will feel that, as they go about their daily
lives they will behave with the knowledge that they could have a worldwide audience at any
time. Consequences for would have been considered private behavior in the past now exist in a
way that they never have before.
Humans behave differently when they are being observed. Dr. Sander van der Lindon, in
an article in the Scientific American magazine writes that an extensive body of research exists
concluding that people, when observed, behave differently than when they know they are alone.
Dr. Lindon notes:
[Research] showed in the 70’s that the presence of other people in the
room tends to have a positive effect on people’s decision-making when
faced with a social dilemma. (Lindon, 2011)
Recently, Dr. Lindon’s research demonstrates that even a poster of a person
watching, set at eye level in a college cafeteria, will double the incidence of people
cleaning up after themselves. Importantly, along the theme of this paper, Dr. Lindon

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concludes that, when people have the reality, or even the illusion of being watched,
their behavior improves. He quotes Thomas Jefferson as saying; “Whatever you do,
act as if the world were watching”.
So far in this paper, I have described how the rapid increase in the use of
social media and the constant presence of image recording devices has modified
evidence availability in criminal cases. I’ve shown that, what would have been private
criminal misdeeds in past are now likely to be recorded and available as evidence for
a criminal case. I’ve also shown how police actions, which may have boarded on
police misconduct, are now recorded and subjected to third-party review. I will now
turn to a different type behavior. I will discuss actions that, in the past would be
limited to a small homogenous group or tribe which, with the advent of the ubiquitous
camera and quick social media distribution, has become public.

Mitt Romney’s Secretly Filmed Campaign Speech, 2012
During a private fundraiser, presidential candidate Mitt Romney was surreptitiously
filmed during a fundraiser. Mr. Romney told of wealthy contributors that he dismisses
supporters of President Barack Obama as freeloaders who don’t pay income taxes, don't assume
responsibility for their lives and feel entitled. He stated that:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no
matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are
dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who
believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe
that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.
That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And
they will vote for this president no matter what…”

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Mother Jones magazine obtained this secretly filmed video and made it, and the transcript
of it, available to its readers. This fundraiser was held at the Boca Raton home Marc Leder on
May 17, 2012. This was not a public event. It is unlikely that Mr. Romney would have assailed
so much of the American public in this way at a public event. The film was distributed via social
media and the press. After the appearance of this video, some of the American voting public saw
candidate Romney as an elitist and insensitive to the plight of the poor.
In the recent past, presidential candidates like Mr. Romney could have tailored speeches
to please the private likings of the audience they addressed and not worried about how their
words would have been received by the general audience. According to a recent article in Japan
Today, the American Republican party is disadvantaged in nominating a likely winning candidate
because the Republican primary process requires candidates to “tack right” during the
nominating process. In a day of omnipresent video and audio recordings and in the widespread
and immediate distribution of these images, political positions taken to appease the very active
Republicans during the primary process are not the positions that appeal to the American
electorate during the general election.
A long-standing and successful political strategy, honed over the years to win elections is
undercut by the digital images and social media. What, for political hopefuls, has been private or
intimate talk with single-issue audiences is now publicly consumed.
It isn’t only our words and images that can be captured and shared with everyone, it is all
data that we create. Companies are introducing all sorts of projects to “the internet of things” that
collect information about our activities and behavior. A new product from Verizon called the
“hum” will keep parents informed of their teens driving habits. Tracking their child’s location as
well as their speeding. In Stacy Higginbothan’s article “Forget about the NSA for a minute: the

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internet of things could kill the little white lie.” She predicts a future so full of Information
gathering smart devices such as the Hum and automated coffee pots that it will be impossible to
get away with even the smallest of lies. Lies like where you are, what you are doing, or even
what you are eating are quickly becoming common knowledge for anyone that cares to look.

Is it for the better?
I have painted a clear picture of life in our increasingly technological world, I have show
how it affects our lives and how we interact with each other, but are we better off for it? The
advent of technology is not going anywhere soon. Its effects on our privacy are undeniable but
are they a necessary evil? Social media has created a new platform for bullying and victimization
but it has used that same platform as a way to connect and unite people. Small portable cameras
have been used to victimize and humiliate people but they have also proved vital in the collection
of evidence and uncovering corruption.
All these new technologies have their pros and cons, what I think is important to note is
that these technologies are neither inherently good nor inherently evil it all depends on the hands
that they fall into. This is true for many things that exist in this world such as power and money.
While we are incapable of stopping corruption at its core which is just bad people we create laws
that make it impossible or at least a lot harder for bad people to do bad things.
In my opinion this is the obvious solution privacy concerns in our technological world.
Almost all privacy concerns in the digital world can be diminished with proper laws and
regulations. The only reason that it has now yet been fixed is because technology has advanced
so fast that the law makers are struggling to keep up.
The Internet is God Hypothesis

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The advent of social media with its ability to immediately and widely distribute
photographs and video images and with the ubiquity of pocket cameras that double as
telephones, what used to be public is much more so and what used to be private is often public.
Individuals and institutions, such as policing organizations, are adopting the suspicion that
everything they say or do outside of their home can and will be recorded (even – perhaps – inside
the home). People’s behavior becomes reflective of this fact and people may be becoming
cautious with what they do and say. If indeed, behavior is altered in this way, it will have the
same impact as is people believed that God was always watching them and held them
responsible for their misdeeds. In an increasingly secular America, perhaps changes in behavior
as a result of the internet has replaced the motivations for people to “do good” that they once felt
when the thought God was watching.

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The New Jerusalem Bible. Ed. Susan Jones. New York: Doubleday, 1985. Print.
Corn, David. “SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of
Obama Voters.” Mother Jones Magazine. the Foundation for National Progress, 17 Sep.
2012. Web. 1 July 2015.
Goldman, Paul. “Primaries are what keep GOP out of the White House.”Opinion. The Japan
Times, 2 Nov. 2015. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
Lezon, Dale. “Suspects Arrested, Charged in #jadepose Rape Case.” Houston Press. Chron, 17
Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.
Branson-Potts, Hailey. “UC Davis Chancellor Apologizes for Internet Scrubbing Controversy.”
L.A. Now. Los Angeles Times, 20 April 2016. Web. 26 April 2016.
Bellware, Kim. “Chicago Police Release “Chilling” Video of Teen Shot 16 Times.” Black Voices.
HuffPost, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

“Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict: Trent Mays, Ma’lik Richmond Found Guilty.” Huffpost
Crime. The Huffington Post, 17 March 2013. Web. 17 March 2013.
Pennacchia, Robyn. “Two Charged In #JadaPose “Viral” Gang Rape Of 16-Year-Old Girl.” The

Frisky. Spinmedia, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.
Barton, Elizabeth. Interview with Ma'Lik Richmond. Good Morning America. 12 March 2013.

Linder, Sander Van Der. “How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person.”
Scientific America. Springer Nature, 3 May 2011. Web. 4 May 2011.

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Higginbotham, Stacey. “Forget about the NSA for a minute: the internet of things could kill the
little white lie.” Gigam. Knowingly, 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2013.