Op Ed: Social Media Companies Can Help Stop Dangerous ‘Sideshows’

Last November, the San Jose Police Department issued over 700 citations to people who chose to put their own lives and the lives of their neighbors on the line for the sake of likes, clicks and shares.

This was the largest “sideshow” bust to date in our city – and though our officers are working day in and day out to shut down these events, we need the entire community to get involved to stop them. This includes the largest companies who call Silicon Valley home.

These dangerous and illegal events that have literally taken lives are fueled by social media. They are increasingly spread, consumed, and attended primarily for the purpose of generating content to get likes and build a social media following.

And we want to work with the companies whose platforms sideshow participants are using, to find a solution for the good of our entire city. I have sent a letter [to Meta, Snapchat, and TikTok] asking these companies to come to the table and talk through solutions.

Research shows that sideshow posts can attract hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. We are asking social media platforms to work in tandem with our police department to suspend the accounts of people who post content promoting these events for 30 days the first time they do it – and indefinitely if they continue to use the platform to promote dangerous, criminal activities like sideshows.

We’re inviting these companies to City Hall to discuss other ideas for how we can work together to prevent sideshows, and together, join us in sending a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated – not in the City of San Jose and not on TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or anywhere else online.

It will take all of us – public and private entities – collaborating to keep our community safe.

We all have a role to play. We all see this content each day, and it’s our responsibility to report it. The companies can’t stop it, if they can’t find it. Luckily there are thousands of us who care about creating a safer city, and together, we can get there faster.

Sideshows hurt San Jose. And we all need to do our part to stop them.

Matt Mahan is Mayor of San Jose. This op-ed is from his monthly newsletter.


  1. What is the final disposition of the 700 citations? Convictions, dismissals, kickbacks (citation mistakes), etc; thank you from a concerned citizen:)

  2. All the articles on this that I see are leaders asking social media to not allow photos of past sideshows to be posted. But how do the hundreds of spectators find out by an upcoming sideshow in the first place? Why can’t the police view the same sites to find out when one is about to happen, and then have their officers arrive beforehand?

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