Devin Hilton falsely accused by Citizen App of starting a fire
As a forest fire blazed near the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, a photo of a homeless man was posted Saturday night on an app called Citizen, which alerts members of the public to the crimes and dangers around them.
The app had offered $ 30,000 to anyone who could provide information that led to the man’s arrest. Tips have arrived.
Police arrested a man – determined he was not a suspected arson suspect – and then arrested another person, authorities said Monday. Citizen said on Sunday that his identification of the first man, Devin Hilton, was wrong. Her photo had appeared on the app for 15 hours.
In a statement, the company said it regrets releasing the photo without coordinating with the appropriate agencies. “Once we realized this mistake, we immediately withdrew the photo and reward offer,” he said. “We are actively working to improve our internal processes to ensure that this does not happen again. It was a mistake that we take very seriously.
Lt. Jim Braden of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told a Spectrum News reporter that the actions of the Citizen app were potentially “catastrophic”.
Innocent people are harassed by trolls and mislabeled criminals all the time on the Internet, sometimes with serious consequences. But the Los Angeles incident illustrated the potential stakes when companies, with hundreds of thousands of users, mobilize people around tricks and unfounded accusations.
Citizen said its mission is to keep people safe and informed. “We absolutely do not believe in putting law enforcement in the hands of the public,” a statement said.
Citizen, which premiered in New York in 2017, uses cell phone locations to alert its seven million users security risks and possible criminal activity in their areas, including those that take place in real time with live chats and images of users at the scene. In recent years, the business has expanded to Los Angeles, Baltimore, and over a dozen other locations.
Los Angeles County in partnership with Citizen during the pandemic to produce a contact tracing application.
On its website, Citizen says the app allows users to “get the real stories from the people there” and, if possible, help resolve a situation.
“Previously you had to call a police hotline to help you,” he says. “You can now use Citizen to stream live video and share relevant updates with others. “
The citizen relies on police, fire and emergency radio transmissions and documents them on a map. It also suggests users document nearby crime scenes if they can safely stream from there.
After the wildfire started on Friday, Citizen received reports from users and people living near the blaze that police were looking for a person of interest, along with a photo of him, according to the report. company press release. Using a new product, called OnAir, users uploaded live interviews with neighbors and broadcast live videos from the field. “OnAir is a new product with strict validation protocols, which we did not follow,” the statement said.
Citizen, in his statement, said it was the first time he has offered a cash reward for information about someone. “To be honest, we don’t know if this is something we will do in the future,” the statement said.
Mr. Hilton could not be reached immediately for comment.
In a briefing with reporters Monday, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas explained that the first person detained, charged with arson online, “turned out not to be a suspect.”
The second person, a 48-year-old man named Ramon Rodriguez, was arrested Sunday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.
“We think we have the right fit,” Chief Terrazas said of the second man.