In New Delhi, using Facebook to catch bad drivers

Facebook is being used in New Delhi, India to help police catch traffic violators. From the New York Times:

The traffic police started a Facebook page two months ago, and almost immediately residents became digital informants, posting photos of their fellow drivers violating traffic laws. As of Sunday more than 17,000 people had become fans of the page and posted almost 3,000 photographs and dozens of videos.

The online rap sheet was impressive. There are photos of people on motorcycles without helmets, cars stopped in crosswalks, drivers on cellphones, drivers in the middle of illegal turns and improperly parked vehicles.

Using the pictures, the Delhi Traffic Police have issued 665 tickets, using the license plate numbers shown in the photos to track vehicle owners, said the city’s joint commissioner of traffic, Satyendra Garg.

This is an interesting example of crowd-sourcing as average citizens can make use of technology on hand to help the police. Of course, there could be issues (some of which are discussed in the article) involving privacy and people settings up others. I can imagine the uproar if this was attempted in an American city.

On the other hand, this is an effort that helps make Facebook useful for the common good. As it is now, most of Facebook’s benefits seem to go to individual users who can make or maintain connections with people they know. Could a technology like Facebook be harnessed to better society or is this just a pipe dream?

Where Hitler is not reviled

Interesting AP story regarding a Bollywood film about Hitler titled Dear Friend Hitler. From the piece:

[In India], Hitler is not viewed as the personification of evil, but with an attitude of morally ambiguous fascination. He is seen as a management guru – akin to Machiavelli or Sun Tzu – by business students, and an object of wonder by people craving order amid the chaos of India.

A sociologist, Ashsish Nandy, gives several reasons for this:

For some readers, modern India is a country in chaos and, there is a “certain admiration” for Hitler and his extreme authoritarianism.

There is also India’s colonial inheritance when “every enemy of Britain was a friend of India and at least potentially a good person,” he says, adding that among today’s young readers “there is kind a vague sense that it’s about a person who gave a tough time to the Brits.”

Much of this is likely to look strange to Westerners where Hitler is often invoked as the “epitome of evil.” But the two reasons given by Nandy may have some merit. The British colonial legacy, often negative even more than six decades later, is still a strong cultural factor. Current “chaos” also invokes hope that any leader, in any form, might bring order.