Lawmakers in Illinois are attacking social media in a new piece of legislature designed to provide tougher penalties to anyone using social media to organize “flash mobs” in violent crimes.
Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn (D), signed new legislation Saturday that will double the maximum prison sentence to six years for offenders.
Chicago has been prone to increasing violence resulting from “flash mobs” organized through social media; they have had recent problems along the Michigan Avenue area as well as other tourist areas. Michigan Avenue is well known to tourists as well as locals, making it a vital part of the community.
According to Representative Christian Mitchell, (D) Chicago, business owners were becoming progressively fearful that visitors would be reluctant to come to the area due to the violence. He believes it will improve neighborhoods throughout the state, making them safer.
Quinn agrees, saying that nobody should have to be concerned about being attacked by an angry mob that was organized through social media when they were simply going about their normal business. He goes on to call the use of such technology a “troubling trend” in a written statement.
Chicago police report that several hundred people – mostly teenagers – used Facebook, Twitter, and text messages to organize a flash mob on Michigan Avenue in March. They ran through the fashionable shopping district bumping into people and yelling as they ran back and forth.
There was another prearranged incident where a woman was attacked; her purse was stolen. A flash mob had been planned via social media to promote the event on a downtown commuter rail line.
“In the city of Chicago, gangs have changed,” Mitchell said Saturday. “They are now using social networks to organize and mobilize violent activity. The intent of this legislation is to update our laws to reflect how people are using technology to organize crimes in our neighborhoods.” (foxnews.com)
The law, which will take effect immediately, is not supported by everyone. Those opposed to the bill believe some innocent youth could get caught up by a flash mob and be accused along with the crowd. Additionally, they believe it will be challenging for authorities to prove guilt.
Social media, technology, and youth seems to be an intoxicating (and sometimes deadly) mix for some; without proper guidelines in place for them, many are having a difficult time determining what is acceptable behavior. All too often they are texting and driving, bullying one another, engaging in inappropriate online relationships, sending X-rated pictures, or a myriad other offenses.
In some ways, technology is surpassing what we were ready for in society and without these laws to protect our children and ourselves, there is pandemonium. With the freedoms of a cell phone and online accounts comes much responsibility, but absent a parent teaching those children, somebody has to teach them, so the government steps in and becomes that role model. It is not an ideal situation, but now that Pandora’s Box is open, the only thing to do is deal with the repercussions and tries to deal with the contents that spilled.
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent/ Product Specialist