In the United States, when there is a serious crime, the prosecutor, defense attorneys and judge often work together to convict a person when evidence is weak.
This seems like something that should be pointed out when it happens, since the vast majority of people it happens to do not have money for an independent lawyer who is separate from the prosecutorial clique.
Social media is used for a lot of things, including publicizing wrongful convictions, but there is almost always a celebrity or a pile of cash pushing successful challenges to convictions.
What happens when a person who is not too expert with social media tries to publicize a blatant wrongful conviction?
Some examples of how major social media sites dealt with posts trying to publicize that an individual, Esar Met, has been wrongly imprisoned for the past 12+ years in Utah.
1) Bitcointalk is a popular digital currency site. No posts on Esar Met were ever removed by moderators on that site circa 2014 to 2017. Many people on the site were helpful.
2) Websleuths is a popular ‘crime’ website. Numerous posts on the Hser Ner Moo murder case were deleted by moderators. One moderator messaged that they were from Salt Lake City and they could state for a fact that Esar Met got a fair trial. They were not willing to discuss the evidence.
The most offensive thing Websleuths moderators did was to selectively remove posts to discredit the overall effort. A page that had Burmese text which did not display properly was not deleted, but numerous factual posts were. So a page full of the text code version of Burmese letters like “&b+76 76&hgf gyt56&” type nonsense, was left up, but some more useful posts not.
Some users on the site were helpful, and on that site it’s very certain that a pleasant persona would have had more effect, but still, facts should not need sugar to sell, especially on a site like that which is so full of ridiculous material.
3) Reddit was tried several times. The first time some people tried to discourage others from reading the thread, but several people posted useful comments.
The second time very little response and posts deleted by moderators for being on the wrong board or something.
The third time tried, the posts were quickly blanketed with negative votes so the posts were hidden unless a person specifically looked for them. Somebody who knew a little about the case, and was more of a regular on that website, made some inaccurate comments trying to discourage others from looking at the evidence just as the post got flooded with down votes.
Interestingly, several months after my last post on Reddit, the account got the following message "Your account has been permanently suspended for breaking the rules. This account has been permanently closed. To continue using Reddit, please log out and create a new account...This is an automated message; responses will not be received by Reddit admins.“
I have not posted anything there in months. Why would somebody complain about an old post?
4) Twitter hid comments on the subject under the ‘more replies’ link, so most people would not see them. Certainly a result of poor posting or whatever on my part, but why do they give users a block or mute button if it is Twitter moderators who decide which posts should be visible to most of the public?
5,6,7 etc) Several other sites were tried. Most deleted the posts or locked the thread to prevent more posts. Some did not allow the initial post. Some deleted all the posts. One site that is made up of ex prisoners or something deleted a bunch of posts, then posted replies that claimed to discredit the info in the remaining posts, then deactivated my account so I could not respond to their idiocy.
Below is the experience of paying two sites to publicize the issue.
Twitter is a massive multi million dollar company. They could certainly afford to have somebody spend 20 minutes looking over the evidence which was posted on their site before blocking people from seeing it.
The first time the case was promoted on Twitter, it went about a week until Twitter suspended the account’s ability to promote tweets. At least 4 emails were sent asking them if they could specify what the violation was or point to the offending tweet. Each time they sent a generic reply with a link to their rules. I had been pretty careful not to push anything improperly, so I never figured out what the problem was, aside from the tweets not being written well perhaps.
Several months later I sent another email saying I had deleted most of my tweets, which I do anyway occasionally, and asked them to check if the offending tweet or tweets had been removed. They replied that my account was good to promote tweets now, the ban was lifted.
The second time lasted a little longer, but after a few weeks or so I got a notice that promoted tweets were no longer allowed, but I could contact them ‘to resolve the issue’. Knowing already how that goes, I asked them to remove my credit card from the account. They sent an email saying I could apply to them for a specific type of advertising account.
On the Esar Met case two types of promotions were used on Twitter.
Per mil promotions involve paying Twitter a certain amount per thousand impressions. What they do though is hit the same few people with most or all of those impressions. So if you pay for 5,000 impressions and they show 100 impressions each to 50 people then your budget was spent annoying 50 people with a flurry of ads. Worse, Twitter separates audiences into cliques so your ‘50 people’ are actually within just a few small circles which further reduces the usefulness of the ads.
The net effect was that a substantial number of people complained that their timelines or threads were being covered with the promoted tweets. Obviously Twitter was dumping most of the impressions on only a few people, and they were not people interested in the subject. Twitter is sort of like the telephone book delivery people paid a certain amount per person to deliver phone books, but who just drop all the phone books at a few places, or a dumpster.
Per engagement promotions involve paying Twitter each time there is any engagement with the tweet, such as clicking a link. In this case for the Esar Met case tweets, there would often be almost the same number of engagements as impressions on per engagement tweets. For example 60 impressions and 50 engagements. In other words Twitter is doing what Change.org does to less savvy users. They have a bank of people who click on anything, and they use those people to drain funds from less savvy advertisers without providing any useful marketing.
They make a lot of money doing that, but if they had run an honest shop then people like Esar Met might not spend 12+ years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
There are ways of getting around twitter’s trickiness. You can specify more and more specific audiences so Twitter is forced to distribute impressions over more than just a few people. For example specifying a different state every day in which to promote the tweets will force Twitter to show the tweets to new people every day. In this case Twitter disabled the accounts ability to promote tweets a few days after that method was started.
Anybody who is very mainstream and wealthy will benefit from those groups i.e., Twitter and Change.org, but people who are wrongfully convicted, and their supporters, are not in the mainstream.
Change.org offers petitions and presents itself as offering a way to increase awareness of an issue or put pressure on powerful entities to solve an issue.
In practice, they sell low quality signatures to people who want to bulk up their issue with the appearance of supporters.
When a person creates a petition they are offered the chance to promote the petition. This was done with two petitions on the Esar Met case.
When the promotions were active there would be several signatures for each additional view of the petition.
In other words, Change.org has developed its user base into several groups of people who reliably sign petitions without reading them. These empty signatures cost about 0.10 to 0.50 cents each depending on various things. If you want a hundred signatures you might pay roughly $30. A hundred thousand probably costs less than $30,000 because they have specialists that will help you if you have lots of cash.
The reliable clickers are fed a steady stream of petitions to sign, giving the front end appearance of public interest in the issue. On the backend though, the person promoting the petition can see that the signatures do not correspond with people reading the petition, so obviously they do not correspond with interest nor activity on the issue. It’s entirely a well dressed corporate scam to get money from naive people who are trying to do something productive.
On the occasional issue that gets a lot of public interest they make a fortune asking signers to contribute ‘so more people can be shown the petition’.
Ultimately, the only practical use for Change.org is as a place to purchase high numbers of fake signatures to create the appearance of interest in an issue. This could be useful in a lot of circumstances when it is necessary to put pressure on some entity, but there are more cost effective ways of doing that in most cases.
On the whole, in the United States, a person trying to solve a wrongful conviction without connections and resources does not have many options, aside from car bombs* and targeted assassinations*, if they are skilled in those areas, which most people are not. Anybody who knows better options is more than welcome to mention them below in Disqus comments.
*where those recourses are legal
Experts estimate tens of thousands of people in U.S. jails and prisons are wrongfully convicted, between roughly 1% and 4% depending which expert you ask.
One solution might be to hold corporate social media sites accountable for hobbling issues that they should have some responsibility to publicize.
There are many ‘exoneration’ type organizations, but they are literally plugged with cases. Of the tens of thousands of wrongly convicted people in the U.S., only a few have their cases reviewed, simply because there are so many of them. Most lawyers want to be seen as doing ‘pro bono’ work of that kind, but they would much rather be making money. More importantly, prosecutors and police have tight control over the legal system and game the system to discourage anything that might make them look bad, including wrongful convictions.