The uptick in brazen, violent crime on and around campus has made waves on social media, the Minnesota Daily reported last week. One student created a Facebook group to discuss campus crime, and another launched a Twitter account, acting as a parody police scanner.
Most student social media endeavors inspired by recent crime are well-intentioned and harmless. Unfortunately, the much more popular @UMNCRIME account seems to be neither.
The account’s creator — a child psychology sophomore who spoke to the Daily but wished to remain anonymous — said @UMNCRIME aims to update its more than 1,230 followers faster than police or other sources.
“The whole account’s purpose is to inform,”
@UMNCRIME’s creator told the Daily last week. “It’s not there for politics; it’s just so students can know what’s going on and where so they can be better prepared.”
That’s a worthy goal, but @UMNCRIME’s tweets run counter to it. While the account will occasionally repost University crime alerts and public safety updates, much of its activity is devoted to passing along unverified information and fishing for retweets.
This kind of behavior isn’t informative; it’s pot-stirring. Tweets like “Welcome back to campus, everyone! Hope you brought your pepper spray and your tasers!” and “What are all these sirens?!” provoke campus-wide anxiety over recent crime to get attention.
@UMNCRIME also frequently posts or retweets unverified tips about local crime or police activity with little context or follow-up. This practice is dangerous, with the potential to spread misinformation and cloud news the community may actually need.
Informing the community about an issue as sensitive and important as crime must be done thoroughly, accurately and transparently. With this in mind, @UMNCRIME unfortunately does more harm than good.