NYC Mayor Asks Residents To Snitch On Social Distancing Violators, Gets Dick Pics And Hitler Memes Instead

from the socially-distance-THIS-yo dept

See something, say something” but for the coronavirus. How could it possibly go wrong?

Everyone put your hands down. Of course we know how it could go wrong. Opening up the lines to callers never works. The DHS knows this, even if it chooses to ignore this. Years of “see something, say something” did nothing more than fill its data stores with reports from curtain twitchers about things their brown neighbors were doing and do-gooding randos calling in everyone they saw walking around with a camera.

The home to the most “every Muslim is a suspect” city in the US should have known better than to open up a snitch line to the public. But officials like Governor Andrew Cuomo have already shown they’re unable to fathom the concept of unintended consequences. Cuomo issued a mandate for mask-wearing in public while allowing an anti-mask law to run concurrently, inviting state law enforcement officers to engage in very selective enforcement.

Without a doubt, the state has a COVID problem. But doing dumb shit isn’t going to fix it. At best, it’s just going to tie up city resources.

Enter NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio. A city in the deep throes of a pandemic needs solid leadership. This isn’t it. This is only something that seems sort of useful until someone gives it a few seconds of thought.

On April 18, Mayor De Blasio took decisive action in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus:

If you see someone failing to practice social distancing, rat them out, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Saturday as part of a new city effort to corral the coronavirus.

“We still know there’s some people who need to get the message. And that means sometimes making sure the enforcement is there to educate people and make clear we’ve got to have social distancing,” Hizzoner said in a video posted to Twitter

To do that, is “simple,” he explained.

Snap a photo of an offending person or crowd, set the location on the image, and text it to 311-692.

I don’t know what he expected, but anyone who’s had any internet experience knows what the public will do when it’s given access to a government hotline (or an internet poll, etc.).

Photos of extended middle fingers, the mayor dropping the Staten Island groundhog and news coverage of him going to the gym have all been texted to a special tip line that de Blasio announced Saturday, according to screenshots posted on Twitter.

Believe it or not, that’s the better stuff. The government wanted the public to respond and respond the public did. Emphatically and obscenely.

An NYPD source said that “dick pic” photos of real penises have also been texted to 311, and a caller phoned in a tip that de Blasio was seen performing oral sex on someone “in an alleyway behind a 7-11” early Sunday.

Feeling any safer, New York? If you ask people to become informants, you’re going to have to sift through a lot of bullshit. If you ask people to report their neighbors for being in the proximity of other people, you’re going to get Hitler references and dick pics. And if you haven’t prepared for this inevitable eventuality, you’re going to have to cut off your access to the very small amount of genuine tips to clean out all the garbage you didn’t realized you’d asked for.

City Hall confirmed Tuesday that the 311 text line was shuttered to clear out a backlog of crank complaints on Sunday.

The solution isn’t a new tip line that’s going to quickly turn into an IRL 4Chan. The solution is to let existing systems handle the influx and hope for the best. Yes, too many people still use 911 and dispatch lines like all-purpose complaint boxes but asking New Yorkers to snitch on each other for being social was never going to work out well.

People are already feeling the encroachment of the government as the pandemic wears on. Asking residents to be part of the perceived problem is always going to result in little-a anarchy. Government officials never seem to understand most Americans think being a snitch is pretty much un-American. This is something we expect authoritarian nations to do: turn citizens against each other. We don’t care for it much in the Land of the Free. There will always be outliers willing to sell the person across the street out to the fuzz, but most Americans would rather let their fingers (or other appendages) fly when the government asks them to be unpaid informants.

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Comments on “NYC Mayor Asks Residents To Snitch On Social Distancing Violators, Gets Dick Pics And Hitler Memes Instead”

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Ian Williams says:

Re: Re: What goes around..

Perhaps that race -isn’t- mentioned in the article is what’s actually part of the problem, rather than me pointing out that there’s a significant segment of the population, for whom being reported on a snitch line, and hassled by police, is business as usual, and we weren’t up in arms about it before.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What goes around..

How is being specific "being obtuse"?

Ian’s premise is that people of color have been snitched on for ages and whites are offended that the same may come for them. He suggested there is a snitch line for non-whites and the best either Ian or Samuel has offered is "911". We all know that’s ridiculous.

I’m still waiting for someone to offer any kind of evidence that black crimes, latinx crimes, etc are reported at a higher rate than white crimes. No, Trump-esque raw, context-less numbers don’t work here. We’re talking about rates, proportions per race.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 What goes around..

Racial profiling by police is not the same thing as general citizenry reporting crimes. Police are assholes on power trips and not really related to what non-police do. I’m not claiming that racial profiling does not occur. I think the science is in on that one and it overwhelmingly supports the existence of racial profiling.

The question still stands: What are the rates of crime reporting by race?

It’s an uncomfortable question but one that demands investigating in this modern climate of persecutory delusion. It’s easy to look at the published stats and say "blacks are arrested far more than whites". No dispute with those numbers. However, how many crimes were committed by blacks and whites to properly judge those arrest numbers by? Did whites commit just as many crimes but got arrested far less often than blacks? Or did blacks commit more crimes than whites? Or are the ratios of crime-per-race and arrests-per-race about equal?

A bit of honesty would help the conversation a lot more than the constant knee-jerk jump to "omg race!" as the catch-all for damn near everything. I think we’ll find that race plays a far smaller part in modern events than we continuously hear about, or at least for very different reasons. Examples:

  1. Racial differences in income. Do whites and blacks working the same job get paid differently?
  2. Racial differences in education. Do whites and blacks going to the same schools graduate at different rates or differ in grades achieved?
  3. Racial differences in general opportunity. Given whites and blacks in similar circumstances, does one or the other have a greater chance of improving their standard of living?

If any of the answers to the above are "yes" then figuring out how and why is a lot more important than posting random racial blame online, only increasing the divide rather than repairing it.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 What goes around..

Admittedly, that was a much more thoughtful answer than before. And I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thoughts. So I’ll respond in kind.

Race is not the entirety of factors, or the only factor, but it is indeed a factor in some people looking at other people suspiciously. Racial discrimination is also a factor in the racial wage gap. Given those realities, and the numerous video recording of cops, I would say that there’s no plausible deniability of racism affecting the lives of non-white folks (including Asians, as the COVID-19 reaction has proven).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Ian Williams says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What goes around..

Also you may have missed the point that as referenced as "doing Xx while black" is not that black crimes are reported at a higher rate, but that black people -who are not committing crimes- are called in quite often. (And even without being called in it was probably the single biggest complaint about Stop & Frisk, is that minorities were being routinely searched -without probable cause- that they were committing a crime)

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What goes around..

He suggested there is a snitch line for non-whites and the best either Ian or Samuel has offered is "911". We all know that’s ridiculous.

It happens all too often, as Ian has shown with his link.

Only in extremely rare circumstances do the cops not automatically treat black people like criminals.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 What goes around..

You’ve built quite a strawman, but it’s still a strawman.

Racial Profiling by Police is also not the issue. Neither is reporting rates of crimes by race.

TLDR: White People call 911 on Minorities who not committing crimes a lot.

There is a definite propensity for White to call 911 to report minorities -who are not committing crimes- you might have noticed it was trending in the news for a bit and Vox did quite a number of pieces on it (I’ll have to get a copy of Elijah Anderson’s book, when it’s published)

So… White folks calling 911 to report minorities who are not committing crimes happens. The outrage was somewhat muted.

But now we’re suddenly in full throated pornographic outrage that folks would call the police about other people engaged in everyday activities…

It wasn’t that unacceptable when it happened to minorties as an everyday matter before, why should it be now?

Except perhaps that now it could happen to -anyone-.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 What goes around..

Asking questions is not building a strawman. Nevertheless, thank you for your complete response. So yes, people call 911 on others they distrust, particularly when they’re of a darker skin color. In effect, racial profiling occurs everywhere.

I’ll leave the crime rate versus arrest rate question out of it as that’s only tangentially related to the article above.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What goes around..

"Then 911 can’t be used to snitch on whites. Got it."

It certainly can. At your own peril, however. The result of using 911 to call because there’s a black guy walking around your neighborhood at night can be a brutal beating or shooting of the suspect by the officers.

The result of using 911 on a white guy might mean you end up in court defending yourself because you called the cops on what they termed "a pair of nice white boys just taking a walk".

Mind you, "stop-and-frisk" has ensured you probably don’t need to call 911 to get a pair of cops to "deal" with the problem of someone Being Brown In Public.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re: What goes around..

Race mentioned in the second paragraph:
"Years of "see something, say something" did nothing more than fill its data stores with reports from curtain twitchers about things their brown neighbors were doing […]"

Religion mentioned in the third paragraph:
"The home to the most "every Muslim is a suspect" city in the US"

You were saying? Perhaps you should go back to school and bone up on your reading comprehension, AC. And that goes for you as well, Ian Williams.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Confidential Informants

"…anonymous tips to complain about drug dealers haven’t turned out so well. It seems like this city still hasn’t learned its lesson."

You are assuming the police in question find the actual results of encouraging the knee-jerk racist response a bad thing. The preponderance of evidence so far suggests otherwise.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:


Overall people are doing what’s necessary to avoid getting infected. There are always going to behave recklessly. If they aren’t deliberately doing things, like spitting on food, they will most likely suffer the consequences.

A snitch line sounds like a waste of resources that would be better of used elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nice

But what better way to get a hard drive load of new, free dick pics? NYC law enforcement now has tons of fresh fap material collected at next to zero effort. Police harassment will go way down for a while since they’re too busy "reviewing" all those submitted photos, at least until they get bored of it and need more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Bravo, <soapbox>I never expected this level of criticism of liberal authorities on Techdirt. (except from commenters). There are grounds for hope. </soapbox>

In a more serious vein, the old aphorism applies: "Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

Snitch lines, even in totalitarian countries don’t work. Please check the history of the Nazi Gestapo, East German Stazi and Soviet KGB.

Snitch lines generally descend into places for people to sabotage each other. Things like romantic triangles, business disputes, neighbor disputes always turn into threats against the state. The more reliable and severe are the punitive actions against those who are the target of the complaint, the more complaints are received.

For the most part the only "benefit" of a snitch line is to provide an excuse to increase the budget of the agency hosting the snitch line.

Apparently the Mayor of NYC, and his staff, are either ignorant of history or have run out of solutions for their Covid-19 problems. Also, if the Mayor & staff have run out of solutions, then there is a much bigger problem in their face. People in general are becoming restive, the response to the snitch line is an indicator of such. How much more impatience will be accepted before people start disregarding the authorities. In places like the big cities (NYC etc) how will disregarding the authorities play out? Is the Mayor of NYC of a nature to throw the Police and National Guard at a restive population? What then?

For all the complaints of the liberals and the "safety firsters", President Trump and his staff are apparently aware of the limited patience of the population of the U. S. as a whole. The effort to reopen the economy isn’t just about economic recovery and reelection, but it is about getting people busy doing things so that they don’t have idle hands just looking for some mischief to get into.

The efforts of the Democrats, and "safety firsters" to keep everything as closed as possible, for political gain is just asking for some sort of violent outbreak likely starting in the sanctuary cities first, including NYC.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"liberal authorities"

"For all the complaints of the liberals and the "safety firsters""
Safety is a liberal cause? I guess.

You talk as though there were no outbreak occurring at this moment. What is the count now … and you attempt to use this for political gain.
This is disgusting.

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