Milan, on the videos of the "pickpockets" those who say to stop are right

Milan, on the videos of the pickpockets those who say to stop are right


For some time now, it seems that a new sport has been born in Milan: social hunting for pickpockets, or presumed pickpockets. Every day pages like  Milanobelladadio , created to document what is happening in the Lombard capital but which in a short time have become an almost exclusive container of everything that has to do with  decorum and decay , publish videos mostly of women, foreigners, with no face obscured and sometimes even minors, labeled as pickpockets.

While popular bile pours into the comments - between references to the death penalty, proposals for corporal punishment and allusions that are anything but sympathetic to this or that massacre in the Mediterranean - certain politics masturbate on those images, posting them to the exhaustion and giving those faces food to his audience, in a sort of daily assist to private justice. And anyone who tries to blink in this regard, like the Democratic Party councilor Monica Romano , ends up in the same spiral of hatred.

Pornography of pickpocketing

In the past few hours, councilor Romano has in fact took a stand against the social pornography of Milanese pickpocketing. "This habit of filming people caught stealing from Milan's ATMs and of spreading the videos on Instagram pages with hundreds of thousands of followers is  violence, and it is very worrying. Period", he wrote in a post on Facebook. "Let both those who make the videos and those who manage the Instagram channels that make them go viral stop selling their violence as civic sense, because civic sense is not", he added , emphasizing that it is not by targeting people that justice is achieved. And she closed with an appeal: “Milanesi, let's rebel against this bad practice.”

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In a short time, the post was overwhelmed by  violent reactions, more or less the same ones we used to read under the contents of Milanobelladadio and other pages. Some center-right politicians also attacked the councilwoman, who in the face of the wave of haters is evaluating whether to take legal action and has removed the post.

Romano said something unpopular, but he raised an issue that it cannot be ignored. In recent times, a real trend of journalism has been created that makes witch hunts, in this case pickpockets that in reality are only presumed, its raison d'ĂȘtre. Published are almost never videos of these people caught in the act of a crime , but images of them doing nothing, except stand on the subway platform or in the carriages like any normal passenger.

Valerio Staffelli of Striscia la Notizia has further raised the bar. In her reports, extras wearing yellow bibs with the writing "Attention pickpocketing in progress" and the faces covered by the cardboard masks of the alleged robbers run around the platforms, with megaphone shouts in the subway corridors, cameras an inch from the faces of the accused women, billboards with their photos that recall the "Wanted" posters of the Far West, and so on.

To understand how much this witch hunt has become part of popular culture by now, just take a tour of TikTok. The video of a few weeks ago of a girl claiming the  right to steal obtained millions of shares, as well as thousands of videos of those who imitate her according to the classic scheme of the social network most loved by generation Z. That of the "pickpockets di Milano” is now a well-established format.

Privacy and private justice

The activity of pickpockets in the subways certainly does not deserve a red carpet. However, entrusting the fight against this type of petty crime to social media is not the solution to the problem, also because the problem, after all, does not exist in the scope in which they want it to appear.

In the case of Milan, crimes have been declining for years. What  increases dramatically is the  perception of insecurity , as well as complaints. From this last point of view, the Lombard capital is even first in Italy, a primacy resulting from the fact that in Milan there are much more complaints than in other cities (for that matter, Rimini is the second Italian city for complaints and Gorizia is the Italian capital of scams). That the pickpocket alarm is a bubble rather than a real emergency is demonstrated by the fact that those who denounce the problem, from Milanobelladadio to Striscia la Notizia, always publish the usual handful of faces and indeed, face recognition is precisely the proof queen of their accusation (as we said, in the videos you will almost never see the flagrante delicto). If we count that every day the Milan subway is taken by almost a million people and the alleged pickpockets on which the witch hunt has been going on for months can be counted on the fingers of one hand, or almost, the security alarm comes out much reduced .

But beyond this, it is the communication method that is wrong. It's one thing to film the alleged perpetrator of a crime in order to forward him to the police forces and obtain justice, it's another to film the faces of those who are innocent until proven guilty, even minors, and then feed the images to millions of people as a form of do-it-yourself justice. It's the old logic of "Put the monster on the front page" .

"As often happens, the worst way to deal with stories like this is by pitting the  right to security against the  right to privacy. We are not discussing leaving pickpocketed citizens defenseless to protect the privacy of pickpockets, but that there are other ways to defend citizens against certain risks. Those videos can also be made to the extent of reporting so that they reach the forces of order so that they do their job, but not because they end up blatantly on a social network, effectively inviting forms of self-justice and indeed already doing self-justice through publication" , underlined Guido Scorza , member of the Board of the Guarantor for the protection of personal data.

Anyone who has been publishing videos of "Milan pickpockets" for months to report the crime of theft risks in turn violating rules regarding the protection of privacy and defamation. We are creating a wild west climate where we are all judges and sheriffs. But also potential executioners, given that there is no ordinary court to judge us but only social justice, which needs far fewer elements to issue its sentence.

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