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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Graphic videos show peril of sharing tragedies online

A series of hard-hitting videos will be shown at cinemas and on social media by the UAE’s second largest telecommunications company in a bid to hammer home a message of minding what you share online.

On Monday, du debuted four graphic, dramatised videos depicting real-life tragedies recently posted on social media to provoke a public discussion around the question, “if it were your pain, would you share it?”

One public service announcement shows a woman screaming in panic as a fire quickly spreads across her high-rise apartment. She opens a window to cry for help from the passers-by below. Her shrills are met with flashes of light from people holding up mobile phones to record the drama, but no one does anything to save her life.

In another, a father is riding a bus, looking at photos of his young family in his wallet, when the vehicle violently crashes, sending passengers flying through the windows. In the following scene, a potential rescuer enters the damaged vehicle, but the flashlight he appears to be holding turns out to be his mobile phone scanning the crash for shareable footage.

The third video is reminiscent of a recent event in Kuwait that made headlines around the world after a woman filmed her maid falling from a seventh-floor balcony in an apparent suicide attempt. The fourth shows a boy being bullied by a group of his peers in a local school.

“I think when you see the video, it’s shocking, you see the video is unhumane, that people actually would do that,” said Abdulwahed Juma Fraish, du’s executive vice president for brand and corporate communications. Mr Fraish mentioned the recent pile-up on E11 as another example of a catastrophe widely shared on social media.

“The amount of photos, the amount of videos we have all received — unfortunately some of us also shared — about people being crushed between two cars, about people screaming in pain,” said Mr Fraish. “Instead of doing something about it, we were just sharing those to get more likes. This is the reality; this is what happens.”

The du videos, each about one-minute in length, will be played in movie theatres and shared on social media as part of the company’s second instalment of its #PostWisely campaign that launched in 2016. That first edition of the campaign warned of the dangers of befriending strangers and sharing too much information online.

“Some people at that time accused us of being dark, but I think to face the reality, to change the behaviour, we have to show it as it is,” said Mr Fraish.

The videos this time around are particularly powerful because they are told from the perspective of the victims of the tragedies, said Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa, who worked with the adverting agency Leo Burnett and du for the project. The videos also feature no music, just the stark ambient sound that naturally accompany crashes, fires and other disasters.

“These are very impactful,” Mr Mostafa said, noting they reminded him of a drink driving advertising campaign in the UK called Think! that also relied realistic, documentary-style videos to get their message across. “They were very graphic, impactful films and I always felt this is something we needed here in the UAE.”

Mr Mostafa commended du for its “bravery” in launching the campaign.

“What du is doing here is they’re becoming almost like this big parent trying to educate people,” said Mr Mostafa. “It’s important that these things are shown. It’s important that you get this feeling of should I, or should I not? You have to be given a feeling of thinking twice instead of just posting.”

In an Ipsos Research survey du commissioned this month as part of the campaign involving 539 participants in the UAE ages 15 and above, 45 per cent of respondents said they had experienced a negative situation within the past year that was posted on social media by someone else. Another 16 per cent said they flag or report posts that show unethical or disturbing videos, 42 per cent said they actively watch the event online and 16 per cent said they would share it.

Osman Sultan, chief executive at Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company, said he hoped the #PostWisely campaign would push people to think about the ethical and moral implications of communicating live disasters or other sensitive events on social media.

“The last thing I want is for us to go out thinking, ‘Oh, technology is scary,’” said Mr Sultan, noting all the positive effects of technology in various aspects of life. “This is a constant adaptation of ecosystems. We are talking about a side of social media where we should exercise some caution.”