Citizen app is paying New Yorkers $25 an hour to livestream crime scenes

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Jul 27, 2021 at 10:37 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

20973

In May 2021, crime tracking and neighbourhood watch app Citizen offered users a bounty of $30,000 to track down an arsonist on live video. “Find this fuck,” CEO Andrew Frame wrote in a Slack thread along with a picture of the man which was livestreamed on the app. In the hours that followed, however, the app discovered that they’d sent a mob of civilians after the wrong suspect. Two months later, the same app is now hiring New Yorkers to broadcast crime scenes and other public emergencies as regular bystanders.

Dubbed as “the most powerful safety app for today’s world,” Citizen monitors 911 communications to provide real-time safety alerts, updates on natural disasters and lets users both broadcast and watch live videos of incidents happening near them. According to its description on Google Play, the app’s notifications have previously “urged people to evacuate burning buildings, deterred school buses from nearby terrorist attacks and have even led to a rescue of a 1-year-old from a stolen car.”

“Citizen may notify you of a crime in progress before the police have responded,” the description continues. “It’s meant to protect you and your community—please use it responsibly.”

In June 2021, the Daily Dot spotted a man named Landon who happened to livestream from multiple crime scenes in one day. Landon was written off as a mere coincidence until the Daily Dot discovered six additional videos of the user broadcasting from other public emergencies. He seemed more than just a concerned citizen at this point. One month later, the New York Post reported a user named Chris who biked around the Bronx and livestreamed at least six different emergencies on the app. Citizen later confirmed that both Landon and Chris were working for the app’s ‘Street Team’.

https://youtu.be/C4zE-akCQFc

“Citizen has teams in place in some of the cities where the app is available to demonstrate how the platform works, and to model responsible broadcasting practices in situations when events are unfolding in real time. We believe these teams will ultimately help guide our users on how to broadcast in an effective, helpful and safe way,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. The company admitted to housing Street Teams since the app’s launch. The spokesperson also added how it’s never tried to hide this fact from the public.

These jobs are however not listed on Citizen’s website. Instead, they’re posted on the career board JournalismJobs.com by a third-party recruiter called Flyover Entertainment without any mentions of Citizen. The now-deleted job posting seeked “field team members” to work for an unnamed “tech company with user-generated content.”

“You will be live-streaming from your phone straight to the app, covering the event as news,” the listing continued, adding how field members would be “dispatched” to cover events, including dogs locked in cars and house fires. “You’ll report what you see. In the event that witnesses, police officials or other parties to interview are available, you must take the initiative to interview them for app viewers.”

The listing quoted $250 per day for ten-hour shifts in Los Angeles and $200 per day for eight-hour shifts in New York. “Other top 10 markets will be added soon,” the listing added. Applicants were further asked to submit a short 90-120 second video, “simulating coverage of such an event.” “In LA, you will also find your own driver. Once approved by the hiring company, your driver is paid $175 per day plus mileage (.56 cents per mile) by the app.”

However, TechCrunch found an NYU Journalism website that shared a similar listing and included the company’s name. Citizen confirmed to TechCrunch that both—the unnamed and named—listings were for the app’s Street Team.

“Broadcast journalists have experience in broadcasting safely and responsibly. This is a requisite for our Street Team members,” the spokesperson said. When asked why these jobs were posted on third-party job boards and not on Citizen’s own website, the spokesperson explained that it was because Citizen specifically wanted to find journalists. “However, it could presumably also find journalists on its own website,” TechCrunch noted.

https://youtu.be/6nn9pfGMwyM

Apart from the $30,000 ‘accidental’ bounty raking in 1.4 million views, Citizen has had several issues in the past with unconfirmed crime alerts in neighborhoods. In 2018, the app reported a tiger loose in Manhattan which turned out to be a raccoon. In 2019, New York City Councilman Justin Brannan slammed the app in a BuzzFeed News op-ed, accusing Citizen of “scaring the hell out of people” for sending out alerts based on 911 calls without corroboration. Earlier this year, the company started testing “on-demand” security vehicles in Los Angeles as a solution to public safety.

The app was also kicked off the App Store one week after its launch in 2016 for violating a clause in Apple’s App Developer Review Guidelines that an app shouldn’t be “likely to cause physical harm from its use.” A year later, however, the app rebranded itself as Citizen, added disclaimers that no one should interfere with a crime scene and reentered the App Store—currently encouraging untrained civilians to engage in mob justice with paid incentives as a disastrous substitute for local journalism.

Keep On Reading

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Shocking last words of young vape addict before he went into coma

By Abby Amoakuh

The rise of Ozempic babies: Popular weight loss drug found to lower efficacy of birth control pills

By Charlie Sawyer

How much does it cost to attend the 2024 Met Gala? Why this year’s event is set to be the messiest one yet

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Mom breaks into school and brutally assaults daughter’s teacher in front of 25 children

By Charlie Sawyer

Home Office to pay TikTok influencers up to £5K to warn migrants not to cross the Channel

By Abby Amoakuh

Tory Minister Chris Philp asks if Congo and Rwanda are different countries on live TV

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Inside Universallkidz, the school teaching conspiracy theories and sacred drumming to UK students

By Abby Amoakuh

Remote Amazonian tribe reports aggressive sexual behaviour in young men after being exposed to internet

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Internet erupts over deepfake porn video of Saltburn star Jacob Elordi

By Charlie Sawyer

Will the TikTok ban push Gen Z into the arms of Donald Trump?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Samaria Ayanle’s tragic death prompts theories about a serial killer targeting Black women in London

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

British elite quit exclusive Garrick Club after gentlemen’s club refuses to admit women

By Charlie Sawyer

Professional volleyball player who was jailed for raping a 12-year-old girl set to compete in Paris Olympics

By Abby Amoakuh

New Channel 5 documentary My Wife, My Abuser: The Secret Footage compared to Depp-Heard trial

By Charlie Sawyer

Australian journalist slams viewer who said her outfit was inappropriate for reading the news

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Rihanna faces backlash after flexing wigs during Fenty Hair ad campaign

By Abby Amoakuh

Where is Alexa Demie, the breakout star of Euphoria season one, and what is she doing now?

By Charlie Sawyer

Did NFL player Cody Ford cheat on fiancé and TikTok creator Tianna Robillard?

By Charlie Sawyer

Are Selling the OC stars Austin Victoria and his wife Lisa swingers?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

ISIS started trending on X after the terrorist group allegedly threatened to attack Champions League