Videos published online that reveal criminal activities taking place in real time have raised the ire of human rights officials in Mexico City.
The issue has surfaced in the Miguel Hidalgo borough where officials broadcast — and shame — offenders as they work using Periscope, a live video streaming application owned by Twitter that allows users to instantly stream any event from their mobile phones, posting a direct and public link to the user’s Twitter feed.
Officials have been confronting criminals and broadcasting their offenses, tagging them with the hashtag #VecinoGandalla, which describes someone who takes advantage of others. Quartz reports that officials defend the procedure on the grounds that it holds violators accountable while being transparent about the way officials work.
It is harder for an offender to bribe an official when the event is being recorded on camera.
This has raised a debate over the rights of those being recorded.
This week, the local human rights commission made a formal request to the borough administration, led by Xóchitl Gálvez, to halt the broadcasts.
The reasoning behind the request was that the people being showcased in the broadcasts could become targets of violence after the fact. The commission also felt that broadcasting the offense and the arrest of the perpetrators violated their rights to legal security and honor and the protection of their reputation.
Commision president Perla Gómez declared that their intention was not to thwart the law enforcement duties of borough officials but to prevent possible abuses of authority as the use of technologies such as Periscope are still unregulated.
Borough chief Gálvez denied being a “violator of human rights” and demanded that the rights commission remain above any external pressures so as not to become a defender of criminals while leaving victims vulnerable.
Gálvez said that in five years the issue will be found laughable because, she asked, “who can put a stop to social media?”
She said the Order and Decorum Law states that if an offense is a matter of public interest “you can single out the individual if they’re in a public space. Then there’s the transparency law, that forces us to publicize everything.”
“I really think the issue here is censorship. We don’t shine the spotlight on anybody, they do it themselves,” said Gálvez, adding that the use of Periscope will not be suspended.
The issue gained widespread prominence two weeks ago when Miguel Hidalgo city manager Arne aus den Ruthen recorded vehicles being parked on a sidewalk by the bodyguards of businessman Raúl Libien Santiago. On Twitter the latter became known as #LordMeLaPelas (“Lord Jerkmeoff”) after he shouted obscenities at aus den Ruthen.
The city manager was assaulted a few days later and had his phone stolen during another Periscope broadcast. Aus den Ruthen has accused the same bodyguards of committing the assault.