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Livestream a Double-Edged Sword for Social Movements

FishbowlLA alum Tina Dupuy has a nice piece in CityWatch on the emerging Livestream–unedited raw video streamed live online–trend in covering grassroots political movements–especially Occupy Wall Street.

I asked [UpTake] founder and director Jason Barnett, who’s trained hundreds of “citizen journalists” (they call themselves UpTakers), if it’s unusual for protesters to morph into journalists because they downloaded a smart phone app. He explains, “It’s the natural byproduct of livestreaming. You’re forced into the role of the person handling the truth.”

There are no edits. There’s only what’s happening at that moment and maybe some commentary or explaining, says Barnett. If sunlight is a disinfectant, livestreaming is a laser.

“People are tired of being lied to by the media,” says [Occupier] Tim Pool, who adds, “Transparency is paramount.”

But here’s the rub: As Occupy tries to find itself, transparency and more specifically livestreaming has become a double-edged sword. Yes, all occupiers love when the police are being filmed. But not so much when they are caught on livestream doing illegal acts.

A true nonviolent movement can have its plans known – the cops can know, the public can know, it can be on the livestream for everyone to see – because you can’t thwart civil disobedience by disclosure. Vandalism, property damage, graffiti, sabotage, throwing rocks and bottles at the police and petty criminal acts are not what the perpetrators want on UStream.

So as Occupy shifts from totally nonviolent, you can almost look to the livestreamers as the canaries in the coalmine.

Of course it makes perfect sense that undercover police would take advantage of the Livestream phenomenon to gather evidence on would-be partakers of civil disobedience. Once the technology is unleashed, it isn’t going to go away. So if the more radical elements of Occupy Wall Street think they can trash a Bank of America or two without being filmed, it ain’t gonna happen. They can, however, find a nice abandoned foreclosed chunk of property and give this a try.

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