July 30, 2022 | Baltimore Sun

‘First Amendment auditors’ capture and capitalise on confrontations

Senior Analyst Ciarán O’Connor spoke to the Baltimore Sun about the growing community of ‘First Amendment auditors’. The trend, which mostly began with videos of confrontations involving people refusing to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, has since grown into an online milieu where livestreamed encounters with public servants at places like libraries, police stations and city halls are garnering views and support.

“All the capital is in catching public employees who may be, in the eyes of the live streamer, committing some form of violation or some form of a fraud against the people,” Ciarán said.

“It’s quite confrontational… It’s all about challenging the laws of the land.”

High profile ‘First Amendment auditors’, such as Charlottesville white nationalist Nick Fuentes and 6 Jan Capitol rioter Baked Alaska, have been key in the making of this trend. Additionally, less popular auditors are still attracting significant numbers of views, like the YouTube account Annapolis Audit, whose creator was cause for additional security measures at the Annapolis City Hall.

Ciarán told the Baltimore Sun that long-form content poses difficulties for moderation by platforms like YouTube. The need for stricter moderation of content by ‘First Amendment auditors’ may become increasingly apparent if more people are “motivated to act offline by the content that they consume online”.