“Do-it-Yourself Justice”: Considerations of Social Media use in a Crisis Situation: The Case of the 2011 Vancouver Riots

“Do-it-Yourself Justice”: Considerations of Social Media use in a Crisis Situation: The Case of the 2011 Vancouver Riots

Caroline Rizza (Economics Management and Social Sciences Department, Telecom ParisTech - Institut Mines Telecom, Paris, France), Ângela Guimarães Pereira (JRC, European Commission, Ispra, Italy) and Paula Curvelo (University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2014100104
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In June 2011, during the ice hockey Stanley Cup, as the Vancouver Canucks were losing, riots started in downtown Vancouver. Social media were used to communicate between authorities and citizens, including the rioters. The media reporting on these events framed these communications within different narratives, which in turn raised ethical considerations. The authors identify and reflect upon ideas of justice, fairness, responsibility, accountability and integrity that arise in the media stories. In addition they investigate (1) the “institutional unpreparedness” of the Vancouver police department when receiving such quantity of material and dealing with new processes of inquiry such material requires; (2) the “unintended do-it-yourself-justice”: the shift from supporting crisis responders to social media vigilantes: citizens overruling authorities and enforcing justice on their own terms and by their own means through social media and; (3) the “unintended do-it-yourself-society” supported by the potential-of social media's use for prompting people to act.
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The Vancouver Riots: A Social Media Case


Riots associated with the Stanley Cup playoffs are not new. As mentioned in the Internal Review of the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot, over the past eight decades, “Canadian cities have seen 11 major sports-related riots, with hockey riots relating to the Stanley Cup outnumbering all other sports riots” (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Canadian Sport History of Riots. Source: City of Vancouver Internal Review of the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot - Appendix A - Part 1, p.6. Retrieved from: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2011-stanley-cup-riot-CoV-internal-review.pdf


Prior to the Stanley Cup final, giant truck-mounted television screens were set up across the city so fans could watch it. The live site was cordoned off from vehicle traffic with barricades where seventy-five private security guards performed bag searches and pat-downs. At 4 p.m. the live site was at full capacity, so the boundaries of the fan zone were extended. Police, fire and rescue services were involved in the security operation. Throughout the day, various measures were taken, such as increasing the number of CCTV cameras to monitor the crowd. People were also asked to celebrate the result of the finale responsibly.

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