Whisper used to document man's standoff with police

Steven Loeb · September 19, 2014 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/393c

Might Whisper become another Twitter, aka a social network that can affect social change?

(Updated with further comment from Whisper)

Well, this is definitely a new, and pretty interesting, way to use secret-sharing app Whisper.

An incident occured on Thursday, in which a man in Grand Prairie, Texas, used Whisper, which allows people to share their thoughts anonymously, to detail a standoff he was having with the police. The situation was revealed in a post from Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper's editor in chief. 

(Note: Vator is holding its 4th Annual Splash LA event on Oct. 2 with speakers that include Whisper CEO Michael Heyward and The Honest Company's Jessica Alba and Brian Lee. Register here.)

Here are a series of posts made by the man, supplied to VatorNews from Whisper. There are 13 in all:

I'm going to die today.
I have 50 cops around me. this pic I took,  just now
still me back l view
they think I want to die. true pic of what I see now
fuck the cops still me .... true pic
the news media is here.
Fuck the police no love. Real time pic.
more swat
I have more cops around me
the back
how am I making things worse
these assholes feel like they can be destroying people' property

There does not seem to be a clear indication as to what sparked the incident. According to Dallas News, it began with a routine traffic stop, but when police attempted to stop the driver, who is said to be 33 years old, he tried to flee. Fearing that he may have been armed,  police closed down the area and the standoff ensued.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident, which began around 2PM and lasted for four hours. Police eventually used tear gas to force him out of his car, and he was taken into custody.

The suspect had been also in contact with Josh Chavers, a news editor at Whisper, who used the chance to get his side of the story. Those conversations were shared with Gawker:

Man in Standoff With Texas Police Is Sending Live Updates From Whisper

Man in Standoff With Texas Police Is Sending Live Updates From Whisper

In a couple of the screenshots, the man seems to indicate that the incident started because police believed that the suspect was going to kill himself.

Man in Standoff With Texas Police Is Sending Live Updates From Whisper

Man in Standoff With Texas Police Is Sending Live Updates From Whisper

Now, some may question the appropriateness of Whisper continuing to allow the suspect to post the above images, which very well may have enflamed passions regarding police behavior and brutality that have been stirred by a series of incidents, including the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

In an interview, Zimmerman told me that it those cases in particular that stopped Whisper from censoring the posts that were coming in.

"Usually what you wind up getting is a very one-sided look, and its usually from the point of view of the police. It's crucial to get a look at the other side, at the opposite end of the standoff and really get into a understanding of what drives someone to do something like that," he said. "What really is the context for this story? With Michael brown it would be very easy to dismiss it as altercation with the police if there weren’t eye witnesses."

Without these first person  accounts it becomes very difficult to get the full story, and all we are left with is a police report, which, in the case of Michael Brown, did not conain the full story.

"There is huge value in surfacing these types of stories," Zimmerman said.

The last month or so has not been good for the police, due to the aforementioned incidents. Perhaps a service like Whisper, which allows someone to document  what is happening without fear of reprisal, will become the next Twitter, which turned out to be an extremely effective tool for affecting social change.

Zimmerman agreed with this assessment, noting that Whisper is a tool for the type of self expression that Twitter had also fostered.

"Twitter really wasn’t really a player in the social field until individuals starting using it in different ways to live Tweet what was going on in their lives that people found newsworthy. That means different things that could be positive or negative, but surfacing that info, making it available, is what Whisper has been about," he said "People living their lives, doing something extreme or intense, or jist struggling to get out of bed. Utimately the platform serve the purpose to allow them to express themselves and things that are important to them."

In the end, though having a standoff with the police is obviously not the best way for someone to express themselves, he sees Whisper as giving voice to  the dienfranchised.

"Theres definitely a need that people have for this type of service. They may feel disenfranchised, and have few places to turn, and these are real people with real issues. They have something to get across, and they may not go about it the best way  but they real people and they may not have bad intentions," said Zimmerman. "It brings issues to the fore, and it behooves journalists to pick it up, and take a hard look at these ppl and their stories, rather than taking the official story. Its way to get past and get really deep into real stories for real people."

(Note: Vator is holding our 4th Annual Splash LA event on Oct. 2 with speakers that include Whisper CEO Michael Heyward! Register here.)

(Image source: crimeblog.dallasnews.com)

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Whisper is an anonymous social network that is revolutionizing the way millions are interacting and expressing themselves online. At Whisper, they believe you can only truly be yourself when no one else is watching, so they've built a cloaking device for your thoughts. Untraceable, invisible, no restrictions.