San Jose city leaders want social media companies to help limit sideshows

San Jose city leaders plan to target social media companies in an effort to shrink the participation and promotion of sideshows

The city already has an ordinance against participating in or viewing sideshows in person. Now San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, D-Calif., said it’s time for social media to step up and take action as well.

"We’re here to make our community safe, and save lives. And we need the help of social media platforms to create the right incentives," he said.

Mahan believes the power to greatly curb rests partially in the hands of social media. 

He and San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata called on social media giants Facebook, Instagram, X--formerly known as Twitter, and TikTok on Thursday to take action. 

Specifically, they want user accounts of sideshow promoters or participants suspended for 30 days. Persistent violators would see their accounts permanently deleted.

"We’ve seen individuals possessing firearms, drugs. Some of these sideshows involve shootings," said Mata.

The goal is to reduce the pipeline of followers, which drives participation in sideshows, who then post to social media.

"If people were posting videos of themselves assaulting people, there’d be no question we’d say this is wrong. Take it down, and prosecute those people. So why should we allow folks to post other illegal acts that are dangerous," said Mahan.

San Jose police officials said so far this year, there have been 184 sideshows in the city. There were over 200 last year.


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"We’ve seen individuals possessing firearms, drugs. Some of these sideshows involve shootings," said Mata.

At the very least, officials said sideshows tie up traffic impacting thousands of residents.

Lilia Gaspar, a resident of the Seven Trees neighborhood, got trapped recently in a sideshow while rushing home to a family emergency.

"It was very nervous-racking [sic], especially when I had an emergency phone call to come home, and I can’t reach to my destination in time," she said.

Gaspar said she is doubtful about calls for tighter controls from social media will make a dent in the problem.

"They’re just gonna go ahead and open up a new one. So, it’s just gonna be on and on. Fake accounts and stuff," she said.

Still, the mayor and chief believe a coordinated effort, with social media as an ally, will drastically reduce sideshows.

"You have to stay on top of these issues. And manage them to reduce the incentive," said Mahan.

The mayor said the four social media companies named Thursday have agreed to meet with him over this issue, next month at City Hall.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv