Instagram killed an anonymous account last Thursday that had been exposing the names of witnesses to violent crime in Philadelphia since February.
The account, @RATS215, featured photos of more than 30 witnesses, as well as images of other classified case particulars, like police reports and details of grand jury proceedings. One of the photos was taken in a courtroom during a witness’s testimony. Evidence from another secret grand jury proceeding was also shared with the account’s 7,900 followers, according to New York’s Daily News.
Police and prosecuters are looking for the account holder, who could be charged with witness intimidation. (Um, also, note to folks who want to create anonymous and illegal social media accounts: Don’t, because IP addresses.)
It goes without saying, but this account—rooted in the idea that witnessees should be punished for talking to the law—was really dangerous. The “stop snitching” philosophy has been pegged as a “backward, inner-city black folks” problem, but people from places burdened with endemic violence have really good reasons for keeping quiet. Gene Demby wrote for Post Bourgie:
… but no one considers the possibility of violence more than the people for whom violence is a quotidian reality; they think about that [s—t] all the time. This is not some abstraction to them. The decision not to talk to the cops isn’t cosigning grisliness, it’s about simple self-preservation.
We’re sure witnesses who do choose to speak out are interested in the same thing.