Social Litigation to Produce Societal Change

April 29, 2015

6:00 pm

“We’re not anti-police, we’re anti-police brutality,” said Reverend Al Sharpton; right at the center of the social litigation debate and one of the most gripping debates in the country today: the role of police in society.  The technology world is wading into the battle: with social media and crowdsourcing technology enabling instances of reported police brutality to spread globally at lightning speed and individuals seeking systemic change to put their money behind their words.

The battle over policing’s role in society has raged for decades as part of the culture ways, yet the role of technology and the strategy behind the current outcry may produce a different outcome. In particular, those arguing against current police behavior are now targeting department budgets, suggesting the best way to produce change is by the checkbook.

“To stop police brutality, take the millions in settlement money out of cop budgets,” wrote Rachel Cohen in The American Prospect.

Regardless of one’s own political views, it is not hard to see the merits in the checkbook strategy. In 2013 alone, Chicago spent $84m settling brutality lawsuits, according to the Chicago Sun Times, and Oakland, its coffers hardly overflowing with cash, paid a tidy $4.5 million to settle a single lawsuit last year.

One New York crowdfunding startup, Justice Investor, is melding the social media-crowdfunding strategy to revolutionize such litigation. By seeding cases nation-wide through crowdsourced and foundation-based donations, the hope is to bombard local, state, and national courts with enough merited cases to force Congress, the Supreme Court, and State Legislatures to write in much stricter policing laws to prevent further litigation.

“ is a B-Corp on the cutting edge of combining crowdfunding and social media to level the bench.  We convert slacktivists into investors in lawsuits who take a stake in the recovery if plaintiffs win. Now with skin in the game, social media activism has a direct positive result on financing police brutality and social justice lawsuits – and can earni them both significant financial and social returns!” says Maxim Thorne, CEO of JusticeInvestor.

Social change is always decades in the making. The question is: will socialized litigation speed the process?


Image Credit: Flickr/Steve Kaiser


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I am an entrepreneur, angel investor, and early-stage VC living and working in New York City.