ARCHIVAL (CBC, 4-8-15):
NEWS REPORT: Another shocking and violent video is making the rounds today.
ARCHIVAL (WSYX, 4-15-17 ):
NEWS REPORT: A rape broadcast live on the Periscope app.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 1-5-17):
NEWS REPORT: Kicking punching and cutting a man with special needs.
NARRATION: Violent crime is now streaming live on the internet.
ARCHIVAL (WFTS, 4-16-17):
NEWS REPORT: This man who shot and killed a total stranger and broadcast it live…
NARRATION: Videos of murders, rapes and beatings showing up on our digital doorstep.
ARCHIVAL (HLN, 10-21-15):
NEWS REPORT: He posted it not just once to his Facebook page, but he kept on sharing it so his entire timeline is just full of this video.
DESMOND U. PATTON: There is this thing that happens around celebrity and who’s seeing this. How far can it reach? And will it make me famous?
ARCHIVAL (WPSG, 2014):
NEWS REPORT: Others watching the violence take out their cell phones and record it without intervening.
NARRATION: Much of the grisly material is posted online by bystanders using their phones to film, rather than call for help. And it’s viewed, shared and given “thumbs up” by the rest of us.
ARCHIVAL (WSYX, 4-15-2017 ):
NEWS REPORT: All that online attention and spotlight quickly took the priority.
DESMOND U. PATTON: I think we’re all bystanders on social media.
NARRATION: Who is to blame for this disturbing trend? And how does a 50-year old murder case help explain what is happening today?
NARRATION: Two months after the public launch of “Facebook Live” last year, more than 800,000 people tuned in to watch an exploding watermelon.
The app - described by the company as “a great medium” for sharing “raw and visceral content” - has been used to stream events from the silly to the serious.
And then it captured the aftermath of a fatal police shooting.
DIAMOND REYNOLDS: He let the officer know that he was–he had a firearm and he was reaching for wallet, the officer just shot him in the arm.
NARRATION: And in March, this.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 4-3-17):
NEWS REPORT: A 15-year old girl sexually assaulted by 4 or 5 teenage boys who streamed with they did on Facebook Live.
NARRATION: Professor Desmond Patton studies the relationship between youth violence and social media.
DESMOND U. PATTON (ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL WORK, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY): We now have a window into what’s happening in communities where trauma and stress and violence are everyday occurrences. And so Facebook Live captures those moments, inadvertently or advertently.
NARRATION: In the sexual assault case, Chicago police have charged two juveniles with taking part and using their phones to share it online.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 4-3-2017):
NEWS REPORT: Authorities say at least 40 people viewed the Facebook Live video, but not a single person called police.
NARRATION: But police went out of their way to chastise another group… what might be called the “digital” bystanders.
ARCHIVAL (WBBM, 4-3-2017):
CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Where are we going, what are we doing as a society that people will actually look at those crimes taking place and not pick up the phone and dial 911?
NARRATION: But that troubling question is not unique to the digital age. Take a case from more than 50 years ago. In March, 1964, 28-year old Catherine Genovese - or Kitty as she was called - headed home from work well past midnight, unaware she was being followed by a serial killer. As she got out of her car, she saw Winston Moseley and started to run.
NEWS REPORT: This is where the killer must have started to catch up with Kitty Genovese. She didn’t quite make it halfway down the block before the killer drove a knife into her.
CATHERINE PELONERO (AUTHOR, “KITTY GENOVESE”): She screams “oh my God, he stabbed me, help me, somebody help me.” And she goes down on the ground. She continues to scream. There are lights going on in the apartment houses, windows going up and a man looked out and he yelled, “leave that girl alone.”
NARRATION: Witnesses saw Moseley, startled by the noise, run away. But none of Genovese’s neighbors came to her aid even as she staggered into a nearby doorway, screaming again for help.
CATHERINE PELONERO: She’s lying helpless on the floor, and the door opens, and it’s her attacker. He stabs her multiple times. Then he cuts off her clothing. He sexually assaults her. Winston Moseley flees. A police car pulls in.
NARRATION: But it was too late. Kitty Genovese died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. At first, the murder was not big news. But two weeks later, after a tip from police, The New York Times published a chilling front page story that began: “for more than half an hour, thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman.”
JOSEPH DE MAY JR. (NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORIAN): This story was absolutely and utterly shocking. No one could imagine that not only would people fail to call the police but that they would watch the murder take place over half an hour.
NARRATION: One witness was quoted as saying, “I didn’t want to get involved.” The story became a sensation, and the public reacted with disgust and fear of city life.
REPORTER: Tell me why you thought it was necessary for you to carry a knife?ARLENE DEL FAVA: The Kitty Genovese case, where no one came to her rescue even though she begged for help.
ARCHIVAL: (WCAU, 1964):
HARRY REASONER: 38 of her neighbors watched a woman die. And when it was over, they all went back to bed.
JOSEPH DE MAY JR.: In the aftermath of the murder, the 38 witnesses who were not involved in Kitty’s murder, but were only witnesses to it, had been portrayed almost worse than the murderer himself.
NARRATION: 29-year-old Winston Moseley was picked up by the police and confessed to the killing.
HAROLD TAKOOSHIAN (PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY AND URBAN STUDIES, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY): The detectives asked the killer, “how could you attack this woman in front of so many witnesses? Weren’t you afraid?” And the killer said “I knew they wouldn’t do anything. People never do.”
NARRATION: Genovese’s death became a metaphor for public apathy and moral decay. But two young social psychologists, John Darley from NYU and Bibb Latané from Columbia University, had a different take.
BIBB LATANÉ: Perhaps Kitty Genovese would have been alive today if fewer people had seen her.
NARRATION: Their idea became known as the bystander effect.
BIBB LATANÉ (SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR HUMAN SCIENCE): What struck me and struck John as we talked about it is that 38 might not have been just a coincidence–it might have been a cause it might have been what made it happen. That it might have been that each of the people was actually concerned but somehow was misled by the idea that other people were watching.
NARRATION: Using students, Latané and Darley designed experiments to test their counterintuitive theory that the more people who witness an emergency, the less likely it is that any of them will intervene.
VOICE: I would like to thank the two of you for being here today.
NARRATION: A student was told she was speaking privately over an intercom with one other student who suddenly said he was having a seizure.
STUDENT: “If somebody would give me a little, a little help?
NARRATION: She quickly got up and ran for help… As did most of the subjects who thought they alone knew someone was in trouble.
STUDENT: Is anybody here? We need some help here. We’ve got somebody hurt …hello.
NARRATION: But look what happened when students were told there were others listening to the conversation.
STUDENT: Can somebody give me a little help here, I’m having a real problem right now…
NARRATION: In repeated experiments, the majority of them just sat there and didn’t help.
BIBB LATANÉ: You think that if there are many people who are witness to something that other people certainly already have done something. “Why should it be me?”
NARRATION: Today, new evidence in the Kitty Genovese case has emerged showing that details of that shocking New York Times story were exaggerated. Two neighbors did call the police. And while dozens heard her screams, only a few actually saw the attack take place.
HAROLD TAKOOSHIAN: We can look back and say that it wasn’t entirely accurate but the fact is that it is was a powerful change agent for society.
NARRATION: In the wake of the murder, the 911 phone system was created to make it easier to report a crime. And more states passed good samaritan laws to encourage people to help. But tougher measures, so-called duty to assist laws, are not widespread.
JOSEPH DE MAY JR.: It’s the law in many, if not most states that there is no criminal penalty for failing to get involved, for failing to help someone who is in dire straits or in an emergency.
NARRATION: But the age of violent videos taken by bystanders has led to calls for new kinds of laws.
Last December, a 14-year old California boy suffered permanent injuries during an assault by one teen, while another filmed it and posted it on snapchat.
ARCHIVAL (KABC, 12-6-2016):
ED PEISNER: Why would you do this? For a laugh? For a like?
NARRATION: The boy who threw the punch was given probation. But the teen who filmed it was not charged.
ARCHIVAL (CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY, 4-25-17):
ED PEISNER: Taking someone’s worse moment and making it your best moment on social media is expanding exponentially and we need to do something about it now, before it gets out of control.
NARRATION: Now legislators in California – and three other states – are proposing fines or jail time for those who take part in a crime by filming it. But what about those watching online?
DESMOND U. PATTON: Viewing things around rape and beatings and murder are extreme cases that are actually rare on social media. But what do you do when you see negative things?Should you report it like you would a physical situation? Should you call 911? Should you call a community-based organization? I think that police, and schools, and parents, and technology companies could come together and really put forth some ideas on what people should do.
NARRATION: Under fire for not anticipating how its live app could be used, Facebook plans to hire another 3000 people to remove offensive material so its users don’t become unwitting bystanders to violence.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: We’re going to do all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.
NARRATION: But social scientists say the bystander effect – taught in textbooks worldwide – is a much broader phenomenon, as ingrained in us today as when it came to light 53 years ago in the Kitty Genovese case.
DESMOND U. PATTON: What we now understand is that this observation and not knowing what to do is something that we’ve done for a really long time. And the technology has not shifted that. It just puts a finer point on what we’ve already been doing. And I think we should stop there and think about why are kids doing this to other kids? And social media gives us an opportunity to really dig into that. And so that’s where I think our attention should be at this moment.