Yesterday I attended the Authority 2.0 Conferece at Birmingham City University. The conference was organised by the MA Social Media students, and I was invited by Paul Hadley to be on the panel for the debate “Photographer or Terrorist” with:
Christian Payne - Social technologist and mobile media maker
DCI Ian Grundy – Counter Terrorism Unit, West Midlands Police
Chairperson – Jigar Patel (MA Social Media, BCU).
About Authority 2.0
The Authority 2.0 Conference is a half day event for police officers, local neighbourhood community managers, councillors, voluntary sector group leaders, members of the public, academics and press – anyone wanting to share and expand their knowledge on social media communications, and how organisations in authority communicate using these platforms.
It was a fascinating and insightful event. One of the highlights for me was a talk by student Jennifer Yang from Beijing about how the police in China use social media and police the Internet. It seems most of the social media tools that we are used to here, and take for granted, such asFacebook and Youtube are not available in China and they have their own social media websites. I found it quite disturbing that the Police in China use animated cartoons that pop up when someone visits a website that they deem illegal.
I was very much looking forward to the Photographer or Terrorist debate. The debate opened with this video.
I have been fortunate in that I haven’t had any negative encounters with the police whilst I have been out and about taking photographs. In fact, the only time I have been spoken to by a police officer was last weekend when I was taking photographs outside of Gatecrasher nightclub in Birmingham. I just happened to be standing next to the police officers whilst I was taking photographs and one of them just casually asked me what I was taking photos of. I think it was just more out of curiosity than them being suspicious of me. I simply explained I was on a photo job for a mobile phone company who booked me for some nightclub shots. Nothing more was said, though I did continue the conversation by explaining that I was going to be on this debate panel and asked them if they had ever stopped a photographer in Birmingham. They just shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders and said it wasn’t something they had done, or were bothered about.
I’ll tell you who does question me the most though. Members of the public.
With counter terrorism posters popping up, it is making the public more suspicious and I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been approached by someone on the street who think they have the right to questions me; “What are you doing? Why are you taking photographs of xyz? Where are the photographs going to be used?” All of which I am under no obligation to answer and is a bit of a pain. It distracts me from my work, takes up time and even if I answer their questions it’s of more benefit to them than to me.
I felt the debate went well and Chief Inspector Mark Payne and DCI Ian Grundy responded positively to criticisms, agreeing that the way police officers and community support officers approach photographers could be done in a more tactful way and that there was some misunderstanding on occasions about when to use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. As Christian Payne pointed out, if a terrorist really wanted to scope out an area, there are many other ways for this to be done without them going out with a camera. It is also a very positive move that the West Midlands Police are starting to take more steps in engaging with people via social media and they are making plans to expand on this.
You can watch the full Authority 2.0 conference here, and the Photographer or Terrorist debate begins 2 hours 36 minutes in.
Well done to the Event With Me team for flawlessly streaming the event live online. I believe the live stream attracted nearly 400 viewers!1 Comment