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Real-Life Paparazzi

Why Filming and Posting Strangers Is Unethical

Photo by Miss Zhang on Unsplash

With social media being an incredibly popular and prominent part of the entertainment industry, anybody with a phone camera can make a show out of daily life. However, this also means that sometimes people who are just trying to live their lives fall victim to being recorded without their knowledge for the purpose of producing viral content.

Oftentimes, people film strangers to get their fifteen minutes of fame on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Whether it be to make money or gain popularity, filming a stranger without their knowledge is not a funny or easy way to go viral, it is simply an invasion of privacy that can cause immense harm to the victim of the camera. While filming a stranger in public may be legal in most instances, it is unethical on many levels.

The biggest reason why filming strangers in public is wildly unethical is due to the danger that can come with unwanted social media attention. Doxxing, which is the publishing of someone’s personal information such as home address, phone numbers, pictures and other sensitive information, typically with malicious intent. People often get doxxed after gaining attention online, sometimes for good things, but mostly for bad.

An example of this can be seen from a video posted by a TikTok influencer who goes by Jackie La Bonita. When she posted a TikTok video back in April to over 250,000 followers, showing her at a sports game with two “random” girls sitting behind her, laughing at her. When this video went viral, people sought out the two girls, which the creator of the original TikTok video labeled “mean girls,” and doxxed them because of their rude behavior caught on camera. Though those girls were not necessarily in the right, they did not deserve to have personal information leaked. This is only one example of the dangerous things that can come from filming strangers in public, which is why it is incredibly harmful to film someone in public, no matter what the situation is.

Additionally, because users have the opportunity to profit off of posts and videos on social media platforms, this brings up yet another reason why filming and posting is not ethical. Viral videos can make hundreds, thousands or even millions dollars, and if someone posts a stranger in public and profits off that post without giving anything to the subject of the video, it is essentially profiting off of something without doing any work, stealing a captured moment of someone else's life without their knowledge or consent. It is likely that the subject of the video, a stranger captured in the moment without consent, will never see a penny of the money made from the viral video. This is unethical as the person filming gets all the money without receiving any of the backlash or harm, while the subject of the video who made it viral does.

Some may argue that filming someone in public, when there is suspicious behavior, could catch someone breaking the law, in turn helping law enforcement. While this is true, people seeking social media fame are not people trying to help law enforcement. Showing a video of suspicious activity to the police or other law enforcement can be a good thing, however broadcasting a video of a stranger to thousands of people on the internet almost never will be. There are situations where filming or recording someone in public will turn out okay, like a news broadcast of a crime scene or event, however the instances where it is only for social media fame are immoral invasions of privacy.

When videos go viral, it changes a person’s life. Not everybody wants attention on social media and filming a stranger to post online without their consent can possibly lead to them receiving unwanted attention, impacting their lives forever. Filming a stranger in public without their knowledge or consent will never be cool.


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Andy Poll

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