Commentary

Mobile And Monsters

This Moblog won’t include any advice on ad strategy, or suggestions for better platform optimization. And while the issue at hand is the cold-blooded murder of two young news reporters, there will be no finger-pointing.

Rather, because this is Moblog, this columnist is simply encouraging a broader discussion about the connection between mobile technology and harmful human behavior.

We know that the murder of Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, was captured on live TV -- and we can assume that this was the attacker’s intention. But the now-deceased assailant had a bigger audience in mind for his monstrous stunt -- and mobile, he clearly knew, would make this possible. While the gunman fled the scene of the crime, on Wednesday, he tweeted his twisted rationale, and then uploaded a short video of his executions to Facebook and Twitter.

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Sadly, this is hardly the first time new media technology has been used to broadcast criminal conduct. The most conspicuous cases come courtesy of terrorist groups like ISIS, but the examples are as limitless as they are illogical.

Late last year, a professional MMA fighter named Jason “Mayhem” Miller, notoriously live-tweeted his standoff with police. And, of course, who can forget the popular “knockout game,” which tests players’ ability to K.O. an unsuspecting stranger with a single punch -- and is commonly recorded and uploaded to the Web for some post-assault-viewing fun.

From demented assassins to juvenile jokers, bad actors are now wise to the power of mobile devices and social platforms to reach larger audiences, and attract more attention.

That’s terrifying, sure, but the companies that produce those devices and power those platforms -- not to mention anyone who furnishes them with services and content -- are actually in a unique position to address this issue.

How remains an open question, but the possibilities are endless. Though it raises privacy issues, tracking people’s behavior -- at least with the intention of solely snooping on the bad ones -- will continue to be discussed. On CNN, we heard one host suggest that, had law enforcement been properly trained, they could have engaged with the killer via Twitter.

Perhaps, working with phone makers and platforms, law enforcement can be given access to open lines of communication with criminals, and maybe even receive training in the art of the Twitter talkdown.

We’re sorry to say that this problem isn’t going away. On the contrary, as events like the one that occurred on Wednesday continue to receive so much attention, more mentally ill individuals will likely be temped to play along.

No doubt, mobile technology will be lumped in as part of the problem. With investment and innovation, however, we hope it can become part of the solution.

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