Crime online: UD professor breaks down Cleveland incident

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Thousands of people knowingly watched, then shared a murder.

Art Jipson, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Dayton, teaches his students why. His 'social deviance' lecture combines law and science, finding the point when information meets crime.

"Have you ever seen something on social media that disturbed you?" he asked students.

He asked how they reacted.

"If someone sees a criminal action being live streamed, does that person have a responsibility to report that?" Jispon said.

In a most recent example, a video in which police say Steve Stephens shot and killed 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. circulated for hours online.

Jipson gave a simple explanation: "People weren't sure if it was real or not."

Another issue is information overload. Many online users, he said, are desensitized by the amount of acceptable violence in culture. For police, the online laws are too lax, and there's too many other factors in play.

What if someone does call police?

"'Well, this is happening, I'm seeing this happen," Jispon said, simulating a call to authorities. "'Well, where is this happening?'"

"'I don't know. It's on so and so's live stream.'"

Jispon said police then have a tip on an incident involving someone that may or may not be using their real name, and may or may not be committing a real crime.

The latest Cleveland incident is just one of many recent online crimes. Earlier this year, Chicago teens streamed an assault on a disabled man. Jipson said there's little to be done unless platform providers like Facebook work with developers on the back end. The company recently announced a review of their policies.

"Should there be safeguards built into the software, to which I would say now is a bit late," Jipson said.

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