Internet Helping Focus National Spotlight On Steubenville Scandal

By
Atish Baidya

Dateline
Updated Thu, Jan 10, 2013 2:56 pm

Messages from a group claiming ties to the activist group Anonymous calling on those involved to be held accountable, a leaked video posted on YouTube, cyber threats against local law enforcement officials, and the apparent creation of a website by city of Steubenville to steer the conversation -- the internet is playing a pivotal role in the case of two Steubenville High School football players accused of raping a teenage girl last August.

Ohio University sociology professor of Dr. Ted Welser, who studies online community, said social media is changing who gets to spread their message.

“The spread of basically low cost participatory media has changed who can get a voice, who can draw attention to things,” Welser said. “They make it easier for ordinary people to get the word out and if it something that people care about then that can be magnified through the sharing sorts of principles that are attached to participatory media.”

The flurry of activity on social media has put the story in the national spotlight. The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, “Anderson Cooper 360”, Fox News, and The Christian Science Monitor - are just some of the outlets covering the case.

Welser said people may be using the ideas of the anonymous protest movement to draw attention to the situation.

“They are able to exert some influence over these institutions and these proceedings in a way they wouldn't have been able,” he said.

The attention has prompted attorney's for the accused to consider requesting the trial be held outside of Steubenville to protect potential witnesses who they say have already been threatened and some are reluctant to come forward in court for fear of retaliation, including having their names and addresses published on the internet.

The trial is set for February 13 in juvenile court.

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