Why The Problems With Police And Social Media Both Are Symptoms Of The Same Disease: A Failure Of Society To Actually Help Those In Need

from the a-link dept

I've written in the past, many times, about how so many people keep wanting to blame social media companies, or intermediary liability laws, for what are only a manifestation of larger societal issues. Social media is only serving to make evident what was previously hidden. A few weeks ago, we quoted UK tech policy expert Heather Burns noting that intermediary liability laws were being expected to pick up the slack for a wide variety of other failures regarding mental health care, social safety nets, criminal and civil justice issues and more. Basically, a whole bunch of government failures were leading to problems in society, which were then being seen online. And rather than trying to fix the underlying causes of those, people were... blaming the internet. Burns later came on our podcast and we had a great detailed discussion about this issue.

A few days later, I heard a fascinating interview on NPR's Fresh Air. The interview was with Rosa Brooks, a law professor and human rights activist, who joined the Washington DC police force as a reserve officer for a period of four years (for most of the Trump administration). The interview is really quite fascinating on a variety of levels, but one thing stood out to me -- that actually connects back to the point that Burns raised about how we're expecting the internet and intermediary liability laws to fill in for all the massive failures of society. To some extent, Brooks made the same point about the police: we've undermined so many other social safety nets, that we now expect the police to fill in for just about everything else.

This isn't a new idea, of course. Tim Cushing has covered this point over and over again right here on Techdirt, including just recently, in writing about Denver's test to switch to sending out mental health professionals rather than police on distress calls that did not appear to involve criminal behavior, and how it had been a huge success. For many years, Tim has posted other similar stories, where it's just so dumb to send police to deal with a societal failing -- often in the mental health arena, but elsewhere as well.

In the Brooks interview, she notes how silly it is to have armed cops handling traffic stops. So many needless police shootings involve traffic stops where the cops overreact and shoot someone they stopped for some minor infraction. We could easily separate out the roles, and make traffic enforcement done entirely differently, by traffic enforcers who are not police with guns, but have a more administrative role.

And when you combine all of this, you realize that both of these threads really are about the same thing, from different angles. Society has failed to deal with mental health. It has failed to deal with extreme poverty. It has failed to deal with criminal justice and civil justice reform. And those are all creating messes. But rather than expect the government and public policy to actually clean up the messes -- we're dumping them on social media companies... and the police. And both are leading to disastrous outcomes.

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Filed Under: mental health, police, safety nets, social media, society


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:00am

    Anyway I started blasting....

    It appears that the powers that be /really/ hate transparency judging by how quick they are to shoot the messenger. Assigning responsibility to social media is downright nonsensical and they know it. What they want from them would be unconstitutional if put into a law nine times out of ten /at best/. The police also actually have actual legal office and powers and a worrying ability to refrain from murdering people. How the actual fuck did we get the nonsensical combination of "afforded undue respect" and downright abyssal standards and expectations?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TaboToka (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:02am

      Re: Anyway I started blasting....

      Assigning responsibility to social media

      What responsibility is that, specifically?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2021 @ 5:03am

        Re: Re: Anyway I started blasting....

        Whatever the hell their delusional entitled mind wants basically. Common desires include 0% false positive a d 0% false negative moderation, being a universal detector of truth, being effective for contacting authorities as calling 911 whenever someone makes the police's job far easier and livestreams a crime, and "protecting children" - from what is left ill defined but often means "from exposure to anything I do not like".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TaboToka (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:01am

    Basically, a whole bunch of government failures were leading to problems in society,

    Obligatory Ice Cube What Can I Do

    "In any country, prison is where society sends its failures. But in this country, society itself is failing."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:49am

    other ways.

    But what happens when they have less to do, and Less to SHOW that they are doing something.
    And then the Rich man will decide if we Really need more police.

    Could go back to long ago, when the Basic force were Few, but many were subscribed and trained as Auxiliary,. Volunteer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 10:54am

    Traffic stops

    Traffic stops aren't about enforcing traffic laws.

    Their primary purpose is, and has been for many decades, drug enforcement. They can't exactly go patrolling houses and running the dog around to give them permission for warrantless searches. Not with real estate.

    And, a much smaller secondary purpose is, of course, revenue generation. (Both from fines, but also from confiscation.)

    Now maybe that second one they don't need guns for. But they certainly aren't going to give up firepower for the first. And if you think they're going to stop the first, then go strike up a conversation with someone and suggest heroin/cocaine/meth be legalized, and watch that person's face.

    Like always, we refuse to fix anything, and yet wonder why it's still broken.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Upstream (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:52am

      Re: Traffic stops

      Their primary purpose is, and has been for many decades, drug enforcement.

      The answer is simple, and has been known for as long as drugs have been illegal: Legalize drugs.

      suggest heroin/cocaine/meth be legalized, and watch that person's face.

      This is because people have been propagandized for so long that "Drugs are the boogeyman! Drug dealers are evil incarnate!" Just look at every TV cop show since, basically, Adam-12. The "pusher drug dealer poisoning our youth" has been the default, go-to bad guy. The D.A.R.E crap in schools. The politicians screaming "Drugs are the Devil! Ban them! It's for the children!"

      When people have been exposed to this BS their whole lives it is difficult for many of them to think critically about the subject.

      Policing has always been bad, but it got much, much worse as a result of the immoral "war on drugs." Everywhere legalization (even with excessive regulation), or even just de-criminalization, has been tried it has been a resounding success. Less addiction, fewer diseases and other health problems, less crime, etc. The only losers have been those in the law enforcement / incarceration / industrial complex.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: Traffic stops

        The answer is simple, and has been known for as long as drugs have been illegal: Legalize drugs.

        There are just too many special interest and pressure groups in the US that will fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:16pm

          The biggest such group is, ironically, illicit drug dealers. They rely on the War on Drugs to make a shitload of money. Take away the illegal routes to drugs and those dealers stand to lose a lot — as do the people paid by those dealers (including corrupt cops).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Dave, 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:56pm

            Re:

            Don't forget the pharmaceutical industry, which has a heavily-vested interest in keeping these street drugs illegal.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 2:44pm

              Re: Re:

              It seems unlikely that the pharmaceutical companies have anything to fear from legalized cocaine.

              Furthermore, if they were legalized, then only pharmaceutical companies would be licensed to manufacture and sell it anyway. We aren't going to legalize meth and let Cletus cook it in trailer park bath tubs. That would sort of miss the point.

              The "Big Industry X is against this important reform" meme is utter nonsense.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 2:14am

                Re: Re: Re:

                "It seems unlikely that the pharmaceutical companies have anything to fear from legalized cocaine."

                Ah, you mean the loss of the cash cow which is anti-addiction treatments often mandated today as part of a sentence reduction? Granted that I don't know the exact amount of profit this generates but it'd be a lie to say they don't need to fear the loss of a market where the "customer" is compelled to buy their product.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2021 @ 5:16am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Gaining /the entire US cocaine market/ would more than make up for it. If you are assuming no morals and a desire for money they should be lobbying for it so they can release several different income bracket brands of cocaine "Wall Street Premium White Medicinal Grade". They already produce small ammounts of it for niche medicinal usages.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2021 @ 6:27am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  What exactly are the prescribed pharmaceuticals for cocaine addiction treatment? How much revenue do they receive for that? Why would we expect people to stop attending rehab, if, as posited earlier, "drugs ruin lives"?

                  Hell, they'll end up being able to milk it from both ends. Cocaine treatment on one side, and pharmaceutical grade cocaine on the other (not exactly going to allow Kraft to manufacture it).

                  Your objections are juvenile, asinine, and ill-conceived. All of them follow a pattern... the intense need for the war on drugs to make sense and the post-hoc rationalizations that requires.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:05pm

        Re: Re: Traffic stops

        I believe minor drugs like marijuana should be legalized and others should be regulated as well.

        However there are some drugs that are destructive enough to the user they shouldn't be widely available like meth without a medical professional administering the dose in a safe controlled environment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:20pm

          That’s the difference between decriminalization and legalization: Decriminalizing a drug means there is (largely) no regulation. (That difference is also why sex workers call for decriminalizing sex work instead of legalizing it.) The government could legalize all drugs and thus regulate/tax drugs like it regulates cigarettes and alcohol — which is pretty much what has happened in cities/states that have legalized marijuana.

          So yeah, I say legalize drugs. All of them. Even the destructive ones. I’d rather have controlled doses in a controlled environment and overtaxed retail drug stores than overdoses in homes and gang wars in the streets.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Upstream (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 3:48am

            Re:

            overdoses in homes

            Last year I tried to get some Naloxone (anti-overdose drug) for my first aid kits. I was told I would need a doctor's prescription, and even then they might not sell it to me since I was not a "first responder."

            There are several serious problems with restricting the availability of a life-saving drug that has no known abuse or overdose potential:

            1) It indicates a policy that would rather drug abusers die.

            2) While I would probably never have a need for this drug in my first aid kit (I would hope not), I would also probably never have a need for anything in my first aid kit (again, I hope not). But no one will deny that having a first aid kit handy is probably a very good idea, just in case.

            3) "First responders" are almost never the first to respond to anything. The term is a completely propagandistic abuse of language. In the case of a drug overdose, particularly when said drugs are illegal, it is almost certainly going to be the overdoser's friends, family, acquaintances, random other nearby drug users, or strangers passing by, that are the first to respond. Unfortunately, in most cases, their response will be to call 911. This will result in medical assistance arriving, probably too late to do any good, but also with cops arriving, and we all know the various forms of tragedy that often result from that.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2021 @ 6:30am

            Re:

            The biggest difference between decriminalization and legalization is that the former only eliminates punishment for drug use.

            Drug sales are still illegal... but a necessary component of drug use. Therefor, someone's selling illegally. And that black market drives brutal, unrelenting violence.

            Basically it's a ploy for white college kids to not get in trouble for pot and ruin their academic scholarships.

            It fixes nothing worth fixing, it's racist beyond description,and delays real solutions.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 8:58am

              Re: Re:

              Drug sales are still illegal... but a necessary component of drug use. Therefor, someone's selling illegally. And that black market drives brutal, unrelenting violence.

              You're saying in places where drugs have been decriminalized but still carry a civil penalty (so it's like a traffic ticket) there is a brutal violent drug black market? Where?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Upstream (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 9:27am

                Re: Re: Re:

                Old link but it shows that too much regulation largely defeats the whole concept of legalization. As long as there is still a thriving black market, the problems that go along with black markets will still be there, too (excessive prices, poor quality control, "criminal" involvement, etc).

                For example:
                Legal but overly taxed cigarettes -> bad cops -> dead Eric Garner.

                So, yeah, brutality and violence.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 10:43am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  If untaxed cigarettes are the sort of thing you have in mind, then I guess I have a different idea of what a brutally violent black market looks like.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 10:24pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Here's another link:

                  https://transformdrugs.org/blog/drug-decriminalisation-in-portugal-setting-the-record-straight

                  There seems to have been a very positive overall effect, and claims of increased violence seem to have been a misinterpretation of the figures. It remains to be seen what the recent economic downturns and effects of the pandemic are on these things, as I would guess that even with everything else being equal drug abuse likely goes up in these times. But, I don't see any evidence that decriminalisation naturally leads to any increase in violence, quite the opposite.

                  "For example:
                  Legal but overly taxed cigarettes -> bad cops -> dead Eric Garner."

                  That's just so vague it's ridiculous. There's a thriving black market for electronic goods, and a non-zero number of people are killed every year in incidents involving them. Does that mean they should not be legalised?

                  "So, yeah, brutality and violence."

                  There's police brutality and violence involving black people sitting in their own homes, without any action from the victim other than defending their own home against unknown intruders (and sometimes they don't even get that chance). That doesn't imply what should be done with laws elsewhere.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Upstream (profile), 3 Mar 2021 @ 5:53am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Legal but overly taxed cigarettes -> bad cops -> dead Eric Garner.

                    It seems that I wasn't clear in making my point.

                    1) Legal / illegal is not necessarily a binary situation. Regulations of all kinds can create a gray area gradient between the two. In the current example, taxes are that regulation.

                    2) Even going just a little bit into that gray area will likely create some degree of black (gray?) market. In the current example, taxes created a black (light gray?) market.

                    3) Even some small black (light gray?) market will start to increase the incidence, or likelihood, of "brutality and violence." In the current example, that is cops enforcing the law against selling un-taxed cigarettes, and then killing Eric Garner.

                    There's police brutality and violence involving black people sitting in their own homes, without any action from the victim other than defending their own home against unknown intruders (and sometimes they don't even get that chance).

                    This does not seem to have much connection to the point I was trying to make. The article was about police not being a solution to society's failures, and my point was that one of society's greatest failures in recent times has been the immoral "war on drugs," and that it's negative effects on policing have been enormous.

                    It may, however, have a direct connection to another of society's great failures, and that is the failure to eliminate (probably not possible), or at least minimize (definitely possible), racism, particularly from areas of government that have the power and ability to instantly do irreparable damage, like law enforcement.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2021 @ 6:34am

                Re: Re: Re:

                Decrim (at least in the US) has only ever been a shield against personal use amounts. Drive down the highway with kilos in your trunk and see what happens.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2021 @ 2:32pm

              Re: Re:

              "The biggest difference between decriminalization and legalization is that the former only eliminates punishment for drug use."

              It does way more than simply remove the punishment, where have you been? It has the potential to stop the horrendous results of the war on drugs and potentially saves a huge amount of taxpayer's money.

              "And that black market drives brutal, unrelenting violence."

              Gotta pay for those guns somehow.

              "It fixes nothing worth fixing, it's racist beyond description,and delays real solutions."

              You are wrong, three times in one sentence. But then I suppose it is a matter of opinion - right?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 2:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Traffic stops

          Those users are already experiencing the destruction.

          You're not saving them from anything. All you're doing is adding thousands of murders and tens of thousands of overdose deaths to the casualty toll. You're letting billions of dollars be siphoned out of the inner cities to Afghanistan and Colombia. You're adding more misery to that already there on the imbecilic theory that you're discouraging people from using drugs when clearly you aren't.

          If you want the doses to be safe, sell it out of a retail package from a liquor store with a clean unused needle. If you want them to continue to be unsafe, they'll buy dirty street drugs and reuse the needles.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Upstream (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 3:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Traffic stops

          However there are some drugs that are destructive enough to the user they shouldn't be widely available like meth without a medical professional administering the dose in a safe controlled environment.

          Yeah, and alcohol, too. There's no way normal adults should have access to so much of that stuff so cheaply that they can, and often do, harm themselves or others while under it's influence. A medical professional serving micro-shots in a rubber isolation room would be soooo much better.

          And I know the /s is understood by most here.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 9:01am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Traffic stops

            And I know the /s is understood by most here.

            I don't know, alcohol is a lot more harmful than some schedule 1 drugs. It would be better to sell weed in grocery stores and restrict sales of alcohol, but the public would not stand for it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Upstream (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 9:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traffic stops

              Alcohol already is heavily restricted: severely restricted manufacturing, distribution severely restricted in many places, retail sales, bars, restaurants restricted by onerous licensing / zoning / other laws, or retail sales limited to State stores only, sales restricted to those over 21 years old, very heavily taxed.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                nasch (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 10:52am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Traffic stops

                Alcohol already is heavily restricted

                It greatly depends on jurisdiction, but in most areas in the US anyone over 21 can quickly, easily, and legally buy as much alcohol as they want with no authorization beyond proof of age. Cold medicine is more closely restricted and monitored. There is no quantity of alcohol it is illegal to possess. It is illegal to resell it however, which is a significant restriction. Overall I wouldn't call that heavily restricted - though there are as you mention a lot of hoops to jump through on the supply side.

                I'm not saying we should crack down on alcohol, because we saw how well that went last time. I'm just saying it's a really harmful drug and kills tons of people, and is much more dangerous than a lot of drugs that will get you sent to federal prison for just having a small quantity of them.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:02am

    Humans love to slap labels on things, then expand the labels to the point of being silly, then look to assign blame.

    Society has been failing the people who have fallen through the cracks. They decide that the nice police officers take them to shelters, get them a warm meal & treat them kindly. They are insane.

    But we've assigned the label & who is to blame for it & we will fight tooth an nail to explain how FB is responsible for kids eating tide pods... ignoring...

    • kids are stupid
    • parents haven't had to parent for decades
    • society isn't responsible for your failures

    We imagine a billion children are abducted & pimped at the superb owl every fscking year...
    We imagine hundreds of children are fed drugs, poisoned candy & apples with razor blades jammed in them...

    We shouldn't have to watch our children at the park, or teach them that just because guy says he lost a puppy doesn't mean there is a puppy.
    We don't want our kids to worry about these things, keeping them in bubble wrap & ignoring that the end up ignorant about how things really are.
    Have you ever watched the Maury Show?
    There are morons who think they can't make girls, that b/c they didn't finish they aren't the daddy, & 100 other really stupid things. Why do they believe these things??
    Because we refuse to allow children to be informed about sex.
    So they get information from other uninformed kids who dream up some amazingly stupid ideas.
    We call them parents, not that they will parent b/c they are to young to understand babies don't get put away when you are bored of them.
    We blame porn, drugs, sex in movies, everything under the fscking sun except the simple fact that refusing to educate children leads to them being really stupid. That saying keep it in your pants until marriage doesn't actually work, that prayer is not a solid birth control.
    But as this keeps happening, they fight tooth and nail to hide the truth & reality, instead pretending that kids won't figure out sex feels good & they want to do it.

    It really is time we stop pretending everything is working just fine except for these external forces screwing it up, the only people screwing it up are us by believing we bear no responsibility for how things are.

    Claims of welfare queens lead to cutting benefits to people who needed the help & weren't actually gaming the system.

    Claims of dumping student debt by doctors & lawyers gave us Sallie Mae driving kids to suicide & demanding debtors even in comas need to make a payment today (ignoring the debt is covered in the law & so there is a bunch of double dipping).

    Claims that USPS was horribly mismanaged, but then they passed insane laws to fix it that made the problems so much worse.

    Maybe we need to question our beliefs a bit more & admit perhaps we DID contribute to these problems and WE need to fix them rather than expect that magically FB will wave a wand & make your kids asexual until marriage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 11:59am

    It's always easier to brush problems under the rug than fix them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:18pm

    Weak phrasing is not helpful

    Blaming "society" for something that's actually the fault of specific individuals or groups of individuals is counterproductive, and helps ensure that nothing will ever be fixed. This article is top-shelf buck-passing.

    Please try to do better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 12:22pm

      Blaming "society" for something that's actually the fault of specific individuals or groups of individuals is counterproductive

      Blaming specific individuals/groups for something they alone can’t fix — e.g., societal attitudes and long-standing institutions — is equally as counterproductive, and likely more ignorant to boot.

      One person can fix their own racist attitudes on their own. That one person can’t fix systemic racism on their own, no matter how much anyone would like to think otherwise. Some issues require a broader approach than “hey you, fix your shit”.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2021 @ 1:41pm

      Re: Weak phrasing is not helpful

      Did you even read the posting?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    smbryant (profile), 1 Mar 2021 @ 3:39pm

    Wrong word, I think

    The last paragraph: "Society has failed to deal with etc, etc,"

    "Fail" implies that there was an attempt made.

    I think it would be more accurate to say "Society has refused to deal with etc, etc,"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Mar 2021 @ 6:20am

      Re: Wrong word, I think

      Humans and magical thinking...

      Society assumes Tech can wave a wand & hide all the naughty body parts, bad thoughts, naughty words...

      Society assumes Police can just perfectly respond to everything just like Andy did in Mayberry...

      Society assumes that they hit the like button & that baby no longer has cancer...

      Society assume that the clothes they donated helped the victims of the natural disaster, ignoring no one who lost everything wants to wear a prom or bridesmaid dress or can rebuilt their life with broken dishes...

      Society is much to busy to deal with reality & even as it bites them in the ass daily, they keep doing the same things expect different results this time.

      The lesson to be learned is just because it never happened to you, does not mean it didn't or never happens. That digging deep to find an excuse for behavior they would find unacceptable if they were in the situation just allows the bad behavior to continue & eventually might reach your loved ones.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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