Debate Forum: 5/3/16

Super-Fly Comics & Games, Yellow Springs, Ohio. January 7, 2015. ©2016 Sarah Stier Super-Fly Comics & Games, Yellow Springs, Ohio. January 7, 2015. ©2016 Sarah Stier

Down, Periscope

When crimes are live-streamed, who it responsible?
By Sarah Sidlow

In this century, the law has been thrown into a footrace with technology.

Matters of privacy, taste and culpability are in the spotlight, and a digital-native generation is driven by an online community of praise in the form of “likes” and action in the form of “flags.”

But as tech creeps evermore into real-time, we see a new challenge in refereeing crime.

Last month, a Beavercreek woman named Renee Deen made local headlines for recording and sending a video she recorded of herself raping a child under the age of 10. She was taken into custody.

A week later, an 18-year-old Ohio woman made national waves after she live-streamed the rape of her 17-year-old friend using Periscope—a social media app that posts raw footage in real-time. The high-schooler, Marina Lonina, is in the habit of filming everything with Periscope, her attorney Sam Shamansky says. Lonina now faces multiple charges including rape, kidnapping and sexual battery—the same charges assigned to 29-year-old Raymond Gates, who is seen in the video assaulting Lonina’s friend. Both now face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Many who support Lonina’s conviction claim that she’s responsible for her friend’s suffering. Instead of picking up her phone to dial 911, she pressed “record” and watched the likes roll in. They liken the situation to a get-away driver in a robbery gone wrong, who can be charged with murder even though he or she didn’t pull the trigger.

But Lonina’s attorney claims her actions are the result of a social-media obsessed upbringing. He argues that Lonina was using Periscope to record evidence of the crime, and can be heard in the video asking other Periscope viewers what she should do. (It’s worth mentioning Lonina has also been charged with live-streaming her friend nude the day before the assault—which is a felony.)

Yet these recent stories live-video crimes aren’t exclusive to the Buckeye State. They point to a larger trend of serious crime being channeled through social media.

Sexual assault, domestic abuse and attempted murder have popped up all over the place. Last October, a woman was arrested after she broadcast herself drunkenly driving, and was reported by one of her viewers. More recently in Chicago, a man was shot while filming himself on Facebook Live.

Unlike “live” television or radio broadcasting’s famous seven-second delay, one of the most appealing facets of live-stream social media is also its biggest hazard: raw content at your fingertips that can’t be monitored, moderated, censored or pre-screened.

One day, it could be videos like Lonina’s; another, it could be a victim live-streaming excessive police force.

(Here’s something else to know: If a user deletes a Periscope video within 24 hours of airing, the company has no copy of it. That means it’s no longer on Periscope’s servers, so if someone did want to take a case to police, there would be no video evidence.)

It opens a new set of questions regarding safety and privacy issues for users, as well as a question of responsibility when things go wrong. Who should be punished when a crime is broadcasted: the perpetrator? The social media company? The videographer? The viewers who do nothing?

Reach Dayton City Paper freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at

Streaming crimes in real time

By Tim Walker

Her name was Kitty Genovese, and when she was stabbed to death at the age of 28, her death made headlines around the world. It was originally reported in The New York Times that 38 of her neighbors sat in their apartments and did nothing while Kitty was brutally stabbed to death in the courtyard of her Queens apartment complex in 1964. They ignored her cries for help. They did not call the police. Several watched the attack from their windows. One resident, it was later reported in The New York Times, actually turned up the volume on his television in order to drown out her screams.

Recent revisionist pieces in the Times have cast doubt on the details but, at the time, much was made of the witnesses and their inaction, of the toxic disconnect which had developed between human beings in the then-brand-new technological age. Her killer, Winston Moseley, who died a month ago in prison for Kitty’s murder, lived long enough to see the world change dramatically outside the prison walls—had he committed his crime in 2016 rather than 50 years earlier, Kitty’s neighbors might just as easily have documented her murder and streamed it in real time via their cell phones, rather than just sitting by and simply doing nothing.

Recent incidents in Ohio and other states have revealed just how much cell phone technology, and the Like Me-first social media mentality, has intruded upon our lives and attitudes toward our fellow citizens. While we haven’t gone entirely over the edge yet—one envisions a near future in which some self-styled Mickey and Mallory Knox engage in a cross-country murder rampage, gleefully streaming video of themselves committing crimes and killing people while collecting thousands of likes on their public Facebook page and becoming instant media celebrities in the process—we are getting perilously close to that.

A few weeks ago, Marina Lonina, an 18-year-old woman from Columbus, was arrested after she live-streamed the rape of her 17-year-old friend by Raymond Gates, a 29-year-old man whom they met at the mall the day before. Raymond provided the two high school girls with a bottle of vodka the day prior to the assault, which Lonina streamed using Periscope—a Twitter-owned social media app that allows users to share real-time video through their smartphones. Lonina films everything with Periscope, her attorney Sam Shamansky is quoted as saying, and she was simply documenting the assault so that the video could later be used as evidence. Prosecutors scoff at this notion. While Gates now faces multiple charges including rape, kidnapping, sexual battery and pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, Lonina has also been charged with the same crimes. Independent of the other charges, Lonina is also charged with live-streaming her friend nude the day before the assault—a felony. Both now face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

The question: Is Marina Lonina guilty of the same crimes as the 29-year-old who assaulted her high school friend? Of course not. The very idea is ludicrous. Lonina did not rape her friend—she did not assist Gates in his heinous actions, for which, by the way, he deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This fully grown scumbag took two teenagers, both naturalized American citizens from Russia, girls he met at the mall, provided them with booze and raped the younger of the two. Stick this predator in jail and throw away the key, and good riddance.

But to charge this young girl with the same crimes as this sexual predator is simply the act of overzealous prosecutor Ron O’Brien—a prosecutor who, coincidentally, is up for re-election this year, and facing his first serious opponent in 16 years. National headlines, with your name in bold type, might be welcome in an election year, don’t you think?

Should Lonina have contacted police, rather than broadcasting her friend’s assault to her Periscope followers? Of course she should have. The girl should have done everything in her power to help her friend and stop the crime that was being committed in front of her. But she is no guiltier of rape than the girls who record a classmate being bullied are guilty of assault. There is a line—a fine one, I admit, but still a line—between committing a violent crime and live-streaming it, or posting a video of it on YouTube. If Lonina is guilty of live-streaming her friend in the nude the day before, then prosecute her for that—recent “sexting” cases all over the country have seen teenagers prosecuted for similar crimes, with varying degrees of success.

Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” No mention of how many “likes” he got for that comment, made way back in the pre-social media 1700s.

Tim Walker is 50 and a writer, DJ and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

Moral negligence

By Rob Scott

Technology has made our lives easier and complex at the same time. With the increasing use of smartphones and other tech devices, the ability to commit or even capture crimes increases.

With smart phones and our ever-increasing use of social media, people love to share their lives with the world. All of us know that one “friend” on Facebook who definitely over shares their life online. The one person tells you everything they are doing at all times. They rant about their life, complaining about their kids, boss and friends. They share videos, emojis and anything else they can capture on their smart phone.

There are those who take things a bit too far, especially those who want to share their serious crimes with the world.

Likely one of the most famous examples of crimes captured with a camera phone was the rape of a college female in Steubenville, Ohio. The case received national attention and ultimately the video evidence was key in the prosecution of those who committed the crime.

Now with advanced technology, many are live-streaming their crimes with their smartphones. A case in Columbus shows a woman live-streamed a 17-year-old girl getting raped over the application Periscope.

The alleged rapist and the woman who filmed it have both been indicted on one count kidnapping, two counts of rape, one count of sexual battery and three counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor. The videographer also faces two counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance for allegedly photographing the victim naked.

The nefarious use of technology has played out in other recent headlines as well.

When a man murdered two Virginia journalists last August, he filmed himself carrying out the crime and then uploaded the video to Facebook and Twitter. Earlier this year, two brothers videotaped their third brother opening fire on police officers.

It’s not hard to imagine these instances being live-streamed by the perpetrators.

YouTube introduced its 360-degree live-streaming this month. Facebook rolled out its “Live” platform earlier this year and is reportedly working on a standalone video app. Last year, Twitter bought live-streaming startup Periscope before it had even publicly launched. And Amazon paid $790 million for Twitch, a popular videogame-streaming service.

Does more access to live streaming mean more real-time crimes could show upon our Facebook feeds and more?

Tech companies rely heavily on a mix of user reports and internal moderation to flag inappropriate or illegal content, but the process is not perfect.

In the Columbus, Ohio, the videographer streamed eight to 10 minutes of video via Periscope. Periscope has responded saying it does not comment on individual accounts or investigations, but its community guidelines state, “explicit graphic content is not allowed.”

Authorities were alerted to the Columbus incident by a friend of the victim who saw the live-stream, but content like this could fly under the radar if someone didn’t have many followers who were watching or flagging it for review.

Ultimately, the companies are not responsible for any crime their consumers commit through their product. A prime example would be a gun company being responsible for a bank robbery with a firearm or death. The actors involved are at fault.

Looking at the crime of live-streaming rape and the actor involved … obviously, the person committing rape is guilty of rape, period. The person who is taping is definitely complicit in the crime. One has an obligation legally and morally to report a crime they know has occurred or is occurring. In the case of someone acting as the videographer, they clearly know it’s going on and could possibly stop it from occurring.

The case of someone watching the live-stream on their phone or computer hundreds of miles away is likely a different story. In today’s world, people talk a lot. Someone could think they are watching a “rape” but it may not be. However, if it truly is a rape and the person knows it’s a rape, then they do have a duty to report the crime.

Under Ohio law, if someone knows the commission of a crime is going to occur or is occurring, the person has a duty to report it to authorities. If they do not, they are complicit in the crime, and may be charged with aiding and abetting a crime.

Under this legal theory, it is possible someone who just watches the stream could be held accountable on a secondary crime.

Morally, all the actors, from the perpetrator, videographer, watchers and even the tech companies themselves should truly prevent the crime. Legally, as of now, only the perpetrator and videographer will have serious consequences. Those who watch may have less severe consequences with the tech companies holding zero criminal liability.

Rob Scott is a general practice attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is a Kettering City Councilman, founder of the Dayton Tea Party, member of the Dayton Masonic Lodge and Kettering Rotary. He can be contacted at or

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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at

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