How has social media changed the way we talk about race and justice?

In a press conference Friday morning, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson identified Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on August 9. Jackson also released documents that claim Brown was killed following a robbery, in which he was suspected of stealing a box of cigars from a convenience store.

The Associated Press reported that some members of the Ferguson, Missouri, community who gathered to watch the press conference responded to the report of the robbery with anger and incredulity. Brown’s uncle, Bernard Ewing, also questioned whether Wilson truly suspected his nephew of the robbery, adding that, even if Wilson did believe Mr. Brown stole the cigars: “It still doesn’t justify shooting him when he puts his hands up. You still don’t shoot him in the face.”

“Because he was unarmed at the time of the shooting … we don’t even really need to know whether he had any sort of criminal background,” said Stacia Brown of ColorLines, in a conversation Thursday with the PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan about the social media response to the shooting.

Many have turned to Facebook and Twitter to criticize the mainstream media’s coverage of the shooting, and in particular the use of photos that make the 18-year-old victim appear threatening.

Social media has changed the conversation on issues of race and justice, according to Stacia Brown (no relation to Michael Brown). She claims that the visual nature of platforms such as Twitter allows users to document instances of racism and injustice, providing evidence that such incidents occur more often than mainstream media coverage might suggest.

Brown says the accessibility of the internet empowers individuals to speak out, while its anonymity emboldens them to share experiences they may not be comfortable sharing with their immediate community.

“Social media is a great way to amplify voices that would not otherwise be amplified.”

View PBS NewsHour’s complete coverage of situation in Ferguson, Missouri, on our YouTube channel: