The AstroWorld Tragedy
After eight deaths and hundreds of injuries at rapper Travis Scott’s “Astroworld” music festival in Houston, Texas, on Friday, November 5, the lawsuits are already being filed. More than a dozen lawsuits had already been filed within days, with most filed against the promoter and operator of the festival, Live Nation Worldwide Inc.
While the suits against the promoter are to be expected, some suits have been filed against Travis Scott as well as other famous performers at the festival. The lawsuits mainly contain claims against Live Nation for negligence in the setup of the venue, and for failure to follow their own safety protocols, as well as those of the city of Houston. Some of the facts relevant to these claims include the festival’s two water stations for a crowd of approximately 50,000 people. Hundreds of fans also broke through the V.I.P. entrance to the festival earlier in the day, adding more unregistered fans to the already overcrowded festival.
Many of the lawsuits that name Travis Scott personally will undoubtedly use his history to paint a picture of inciting chaos at some of his previous events. Mr. Scott has previously pleaded guilty to two separate charges of disorderly conduct. In both instances, Mr. Scott encouraged fans to surge towards the stage, causing injuries and damage. At Astroworld, Mr. Scott reportedly did not specifically encourage his fans to push forward towards the stage, but even with ambulances in the crowd the show continued. Mr. Scott posted on social media that he had no idea that the situation was so severe, which will likely be his defense to the claims that have been brought against him. With a massive organization like Live Nation behind the actual festival who could have undoubtedly shut down the entire festival at any moment, Mr. Scott will argue he should not be blamed for not stopping the show if he truly did not know the severity of the situation. Even if Mr. Scott does not end up liable for the deaths at the festival, adding his name to the lawsuits has dramatically increased the coverage of the incident and the lawsuits. Houston police have also opened a criminal investigation into the incident.
As the facts unfold it will be important to see who actually had a full understanding of the severity of the situation in the crowd. The tragedy that unfolded at Astroworld and the resulting litigation will serve as a reminder for future festival organizers to focus on the health and safety of the concertgoers above all else.
Facebook, now renamed Meta, has been the target of many different stories in recent weeks. One of the most interesting involves former Facebook employee Frances Haugen who came out as a whistleblower against Facebook for foregoing online safety in favor of profits.
Haugen has spent time speaking in front of lawmakers throughout Europe. In her recent stop at the EU parliament, Haugen spoke about the importance of the Digital Services Act that is in the process of being adopted by the European Parliament. Haugen stated that the Act, which would add significant regulation for social media companies, would be an important precedent for other countries like the United States in “this once in a generation opportunity to align the future of technology and democracy.”
Haugen’s revelations as a whistleblower included information that the price to place hateful political ads on Facebook were five to ten times cheaper than positive ads. While Haugen has gone on this tour explaining Facebook’s misconduct, it appears possible for the technological giant to bring litigation against the whistleblower. As Haugen has continued her tour, Facebook’s tone towards Haugen has grown more adversarial.
While whistleblowers do receive serious protections under United States’ laws such as the Dodd Frank Act, the documents that Haugen took on her way out appear to be the topic of Facebook’s concern, recently labeling them “stolen” in an interview. If Facebook does plan to act, it will likely be on the basis that some of the documents taken by Haugen on her way out were not related to her activities as a whistleblower. The real factors for Facebook to weigh in this are the social implications. Filing an action against Haugen will likely intimidate other whistleblowers from coming forward, which could be possible if the misconduct is as widespread as she has insinuated. Alternatively, filing an action would certainly generate exceptional amounts of negative press for going after a whistleblower who has provided examples of legitimate misconduct.
It remains unclear if Facebook’s rebranding to “Meta” is a result of the overwhelming amounts of negative press from situations like the one involving Frances Haugen. However, Facebook does appear to be deeply concerned with its perception in the media especially given their new venture to unite the world in a virtual reality “metaverse.” If an “embodied and inhabited internet” is to be successful, the public will need to have much higher levels of trust in Facebook than there currently seems to be.