Live video streaming has been invading classrooms across the canton of Vaud. Mobile phone apps such as Periscope, launched in early 2015 with the tag line: “Explore the world through the eyes of others”, has turned the world of some Vaud teachers and school children upside down. After being secretly filmed by students during class, a teacher at the Collège du Pontet in Ecublens has filed a legal complaint.
The application, now owned by Twitter, allows filming and realtime public streaming. The idea for the service was born from the frustration of not being able to see protests in Istanbul despite one of the founders being there at the time. He could read live comments on Twitter but couldn’t see what was happening.
A number of students in Switzerland have been using the app for something quite different. Some hid a phone in a pencil case and secretly filmed their computing teacher during class. The filming was part of a game that involves taunting and provoking teachers to the point where they lose their temper in front of a public audience. Viewers, typically other children, engage by posting text remarks which pop up at the side of the screen during the filming.
The teacher told 24 Heures: “Young people have a poor grasp of why they can’t secretly film their teachers”. The filming, lasting nearly 7 minutes, was viewed by 73 people. After this incident, dozens more similar cases have been discovered across the canton, mainly around Lausanne, Yverdon and La Cote.
“Because it has snowballed we have had to act fast and firmly” said Vaud’s school director Alain Bouquet. “Rather than reacting independently we have come together” he said. A letter has been sent to all parents in Vaud asking for their help, and outlining the risks and punishments for such behaviour. Alain Bouquet says a criminal complaint has already be submitted. “Most students don’t know what they are risking” said a teacher from the Riviera.
It is hoped that the systematic filing of criminal complaints for such offenses will dissuade those who are unmoved by school detention. This sort of behaviour could close the door to apprenticeship opportunities. Schools need to make sure students know this.
Trying to get a teacher to lose his temper is an “outrageous attack on an individual” said Alain Bouquet. Another incident involved daring a student to set off a fire alarm if 100 viewers joined a live broadcast.
The canton of Geneva issued a warning to students late last year after a periscope incident. “It is easy to forget that rules applicable to real life are also applicable to the digital world” observed May Piaget, a teacher in Geneva.
There have been other cases in Geneva, but no sign that things are as bad as in Vaud. Séverin Bez, director of higher education in Geneva said “the doors to gymnase (pre-university school) would not be open to young people with this attitude”.
Up to 3 years in prison
Penalties for acts that infringe on a person’s right to control the use of their name, image, likeness or other aspects of their identity can be severe in Switzerland. Fines can go up to several thousand francs, and the Swiss penal code allows prison terms as high as three years. Mathias Burnand, an image rights specialist said: “It is forbidden to film someone without their consent. Moreover it could be argued that the classroom falls within the private domain because not everyone can attend the classes, only particular students. In addition, it doesn’t matter whether the images are broadcast. Taking a still or a moving image is enough.”
Those who store or broadcast images can also be convicted, including the administrator of any website hosting the material.
The periscope copyright challenge
The 7 minute video below, shows Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour being interviewed on the CBS Morning Show in America, about the inspiration for the app and the challenges of copyright after the service received 66 requests to take down illegal broadcasts of a pay-per-view boxing fight in May 2015.