Is there no alternative to public shaming on YouTube?

A man films a neighbor allegedly abusing his stepson with a belt. Instead of simply handing his footage to authorities, he first posts the video to YouTube and Facebook. Did he need to do that for the alleged abuser to turn himself in?

RandomNewsTube Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Technology now allows everyone to record, as well as snoop.

Some of the most successful companies in the world are those that manage to retain every last element of information provided by us -- whether we know it or not.

Has this, though, turned everyone with a camera into a broadcaster and a policeman?

This weekend, Anthony Sanchez, 34, a director of Imperial County Irrigation District in California, was arrested for allegedly beating his stepson with a belt in his own garden.

According to CNN, he turned himself in after a neighbor had filmed him in the alleged act.

Many will surely praise the neighbor, Oscar Lopez. There is no excuse for child abuse.

Yet it's curious that Lopez found the need not merely to alert authorities to the alleged act. He posted the video to both YouTube and Facebook.

What did that gain? Greater notoriety for the alleged act? Greater notoriety for Lopez?

Clearly, what is visible in the video is disturbing. A man is trying to teach a boy to catch a baseball and beats him with a belt when he doesn't seem to comply.

But if the footage was simply handed over to the authorities, rather than broadcast to the world, would the authorities have paid less attention? Did Lopez feel the need to ensure justice for the child by ensuring everyone saw the event?

Sanchez' attorney, Ryan Childers, told CNN that the public shaming doesn't necessarily add up to a crime.

"Certainly the video is hard to watch. We acknowledge that," he said. "The question concerning that though is, was this criminal conduct under California law, and if so, is this the most serious type of child abuse? Is this an appropriate charge? What's appropriate here and what is criminal conduct is what is the issue here."

In the end, though, whether it is deemed criminal conduct or not, the broadcasting of the video will surely affect Sanchez' current employment and possibly his future career.

Lt. Scott Shepheard of the Imperial County Sheriff's office insisted to CNN: "[The video] is an important part of our investigation, but it's not the only information and evidence that we obtained over a two-day investigation. And we're continuing to gather information."

One assumes, though, that if the video had been given just to the sheriff's office, there would have been the same investigation. Or would there?

Does the possession of a camera and a ready-made channel for public broadcasting give everyone the automatic right to be Ridley Scott and Judge Judy?

 

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