San Jose mayor calls on social media companies to help stop illegal sideshow activities

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, September 1, 2023
SJ mayor asks social media companies to help stop sideshows
Illegal sideshow activity is front and center in San Jose and now Mayor Matt Mahan is asking social media companies for help to stop them.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Sideshow activity is front and center in San Jose. Mayor Matt Mahan sent a letter to all the major social media companies, asking for their help to slow down these illegal and dangerous events.

These events have only increased in the past year. After 232 were reported in 2022, there are already 184 reported incidents in 2023.

MORE: Santa Rosa suing 13 sideshow organizers $25K each for pollution violations

These illegal sideshows have terrorized neighbors and created problems for the community.

"Every weekend we have sideshows, and it's hurting our community," Lilia Gaspar said.

"Cars are being broken into, windows are being broken, and families are not feeling safe," Margarito Gomez said.

"Sideshows are dangerous," SJPD Chief Anthony Mata said. "They're dangerous to the participants. They're dangerous to the spectators, to the community."

MORE: Neighbors call for action after 1 killed, 2 injured in massive Bay Area sideshows

SJPD uses different techniques to curtail activity, including citing spectators and participants. But Mayor Mahan believes fault falls on social media companies as well, and he has sent a letter asking them to play a part in finding solutions.

"We would not stand for people posting videos of themselves physically assaulting people," Mayor Mahan said. "So why would we support posting videos of people engaging in other dangerous and illegal activities, that have literally been involved in events where people have died?"

Mahan wants sideshow videos removed quickly to help limit numbers of people attending the events.

He'd also like to see accounts suspended for 30 days for the first offense and banned permanently if the content continues.

MORE: Could you be fined or sent to jail for watching a sideshow? Alameda Co. closer to banning spectators

An ordinance that could make it illegal to be a spectator at a sideshow in Alameda County passed its first reading by the Board of Supervisors.

Social media expert Ahmed Banafa says a change like this is absolutely possible and these companies have an obligation to promote public safety.

"This could be a model for other activities that they look at, illegal activities," Banafa said. "They could just apply the same model to other activities when they ask the tech companies to take actions."

We reached out to the social media companies. While we haven't heard back yet, the mayor said his office has received positive responses. So we asked him why he believes his plea will make a difference.

"If people didn't get the likes and the followers and all the attention on social media, I think we would see far less sideshow activity," Mahan said. "People are doing it for the attention and the social media platforms have a responsibility for cutting off that attention."

The mayor hopes the companies will come to city hall next month to work out a solution that works for everyone.

VIDEO: Video shows semi-truck participating in illegal Oakland sideshow

A semi-truck took part in a sideshow on the streets of Oakland.

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