Devin Hilton wrongly accused by Citizen app of launching Wildfire
As a forest fire started blazing near the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles, a photo of a homeless man was posted 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 leading to the man’s arrest. Tips have arrived.
Police arrested one man – determined he was not a suspect – and then arrested another, authorities said Monday. On Tuesday, Citizen said his identification of the first man, Devin Hilton, was a mistake.
In a statement, the company said it regrets releasing the photo without coordinating with the relevant agencies. “Once we realized this mistake, we immediately retracted the photo and reward offer,” he said. “We are actively working to improve our internal processes to prevent this from happening again. This is 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 “disastrous”.
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, rally people around unfounded advice and accusations.
The sheriff’s department did not respond to a request for comment.
Citizen, created in New York in 2017, uses cell phone locations to alert its seven million users security risks and possible criminal activity in their area, including those that take place in real time with live chats and images of users who are on the premises. In recent years, the company has expanded to Los Angeles, Baltimore, and over a dozen other locations.
Los Angeles County in partnership with Citizen during the pandemic to produce an application for contact tracing.
On its website, Citizen says the app allows users to “get the real story of the people at the scene” and, if possible, help resolve a situation.
“Previously, you had to call a police information line to help you,” he says. “You can now use Citizen to stream live video and share relevant updates with others.”
Citizen relies on radio transmissions from police, fire and emergency services and documents them on a map. It also suggests that users document nearby crime scenes if they are able to safely stream from there.
After the fire started on Friday, Citizen received reports that police were looking for a person of interest, along with a photo of him, according to the company statement. 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 have failed to follow,” 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.