Instagram account intimidating witnesses shut down, instigates cellphone ban in courts

instagram account intimidating witnesses shut instigates cellphone ban courts stopsnitchin1

According to a report, an anonymous Instagram account was discovered last week which revealed the identities of witnesses to violent crimes. Under the username @rats215, the account featured photos of over 30 witnesses, along with pictures of classified police reports, testimonies, evidence, and details relating to grand jury proceedings. Since its creation last February, the account has amassed around 8,000 followers and shared 150 Instagram posts.

rats215 instagram

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (which first reported the account’s existence), the account encouraging followers to send information to expose “rats” was discovered by a local policeman after he found photos of witnesses in a 2012 attempted shooting on Twitter. “We work with Philadelphia police to investigate vigorously and thoroughly any attempt to intimidate any witness, to identify perpetrators, and, where appropriate, arrest and prosecute,” Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, told the Inquirer via email. While she declined to comment on investigation particulars, she stressed that witness intimidation is “a very serious, ongoing problem.”

Although the @rats215 has been suspended since Thursday after being brought to Instagram’s attention, the fact that most of the information posted on the account weren’t available publicly has purportedly prompted the First Judicial District to consider banning cellphones inside courtrooms. Current courtroom policies actually require people in attendance to turn off all mobile phones and keep them from plain sight, but it’s not being strictly enforced. 

How the modern world is going to deal with accounts like these remains up for debate – literally. Efforts to ban cellphones have reportedly been ineffective in many cities. “It poses a logistical nightmare. Because inevitably, people simply don’t get the message,” Keel said. “They show up, they say, ‘What am I supposed to do now? I need to be in the courtroom.’ Then you have to make room and make space for lockers, and make sure that they’re secured.”

The person behind the @rats215 account is still unknown – if found, he or she could be charged with witness intimidation.

Exposing people’s identities is becoming commonplace online, and in some cases, those who do it have their hearts in the right place. Apart from accounts like @rats215 designed to give both convicted and suspected criminals an upper hand, we’ve got MafiaLeaks, a site for mob victims and whistleblowers that hopes to shed light on the identities of mafia members. Arguably, this is a more noble cause since it concerns outing criminals, but it still raises questions about what platforms should be responsible with the transaction of such critical information.


Instagram tool accidentally exposes user passwords. Were you affected?

Instagram's Download Your Data tool accidentally exposed the passwords of a small number of users. Here is the explanation on what happened, and how to find out which Instagram accounts were compromised.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

One popular character won't be returning for 'John Wick 3: Parabellum'

The third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, John Wick 3: Parabellum, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Social Media

Vine fans, your favorite video-looping app is coming back as Byte

Vine fans were left disappointed in 2017 when its owner, Twitter, pulled the plug on the video-looping app. But now one of its co-founders has promised that a new version of the app, called Byte, is coming soon.

Social media use increases depression and anxiety, experiment shows

A study has shown for the first time a causal link between social media use and lower rates of well-being. Students who limited their social media usage to 30 minutes a day showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out.
Social Media

Twitter boss hints that an edit button for tweets may finally be on its way

Twitter has been talking for years about launching an edit button for tweets, but it still hasn't landed. This week, company boss Jack Dorsey addressed the matter again, describing a quick-edit button as "achievable."
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.
Social Media

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger ‘unsend’ feature, and here’s how to use it

Facebook is starting to roll out a "remove message" feature for its Messenger app. It lets you delete a message in a thread within 10 minutes of sending it, and replaces it with a note telling recipients that it's been removed.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.
Product Review

It's not a spy, but you still won't want to friend Facebook's Portal+

Facebook has jumped into the smart home game with the Portal+, a video-calling device featuring an Amazon Alexa speaker and a screen. While it has lots of cool calling features, we’re weary of Facebook taking up counter space in our home.
Social Media

Why an American named John Lewis gets lots of Twitter hassle from Brits

Spare a thought for Twitter user John Lewis. When he signed up as @johnlewis soon after the app launched in 2006, little did he know what he was letting himself in for. Clue: There's a U.K. department store called John Lewis.