Saskatchewan

People filming 'reprehensible' acts may spur the bad behaviour, says U of R prof

The person who claimed to have recorded a video of another person dousing a stranger in coffee denied responsibility through posts on social media. However, a behavioral analyst said people who knowingly record incidents like this share the responsibility.

Police investigating coffee-throwing incidents, but no charges have been laid

Gord Pennycook is an assistant professor of behavioural science at the University of Regina. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The person who claimed to have recorded a video of another person dousing a stranger in coffee denied responsibility through posts on social media.   

However, an associate professor of behaviour sciences at the University of Regina said people who knowingly record incidents like this share the responsibility as the person who commits the act. 

The video in question was recorded Tuesday night in Regina — and it's gone viral. It shows Falgun Vaviya, 19, playing games on his phone while on break at work.

He is approached by a small group of strangers. One of them calls out, "Excuse me," and then splashes a cup of coffee in Vaviya's face. 

Vaviya said the group of three laughed as it happened and then ran away. 

Falgun Vaviya, 19, is speaking out about his experience of being a victim in an apparently random coffee-throwing incident. (Matt Howard/CBC)

The video was allegedly posted to social media platform Snapchat by a member of the group. It gained traction because another party recorded that post and shared it publicly. 

The person claiming to be behind the video — whom CBC is not naming because police have not laid charges — posted on Facebook after online backlash bubbled. 

He wrote "it wasn't even me that threw the coffee in that guy's face" and added "if y'all seen that on some youtube or [some] you'd be laughing." 

The person also wrote "I recorded the video... y'all hating on me [just because] I posted a video onto my snap story."

Who bears responsibility?

Gordon Pennycook, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Regina, said the alleged perpetrator isn't considering the right question in terms of responsibility. 

"He didn't literally throw the coffee on the person, but the question is, are you responsible for the event having occurred?"

Pennycook said people who record videos like this can play a "direct causal role" in the act, because the act likely wouldn't have happened if it wasn't being recorded. 

Regina police have confirmed they are investigating a video in which a person appears to throw coffee at a man sitting on a bench. 0:18

He said the plan of the person or people who doused a stranger in coffee, recorded it and then posted it to social media appears to have "backfired." Pennycook said people most often make posts online to generate likes. In this case, the majority of people who commented on the video supported Vaviya and condemned the perpetrators' actions. 

"They thought that it was going to be cool, but it wasn't," said Pennycook.

People will use the internet and technology as excuses for bad behaviour.- Gordon Pennycook, U of R professor 

He said situations like this blur the lines between the behaviour in digital and real spaces. 

"If you're recording something, it might just seem like a prank, and that's kind of what it was, but you don't view it as the reprehensible moral act," he said. 

"People will use the internet and technology as excuses for bad behaviour." 

The person who claimed to have posted the original video on his snap story also wrote on Facebook: "maybe it wasn't right of us to do that and [I'll] APOLOGIZE right here if it'll make everyone happy." 

The person has since deactivated or deleted the Facebook account. 

Police are aware of the video and continue to investigate. Officers are also looking into a second incident that happened outside Winners/HomeSense in East Regina.

Employees confirm their colleague, a Nigerian man, was doused in coffee in a similar fashion.

To date, a video of this incident has not surfaced on social media.

A spokesperson for the Regina Police said there could have been more of these coffee-throwing incidents and asked anyone with information to contact the police.

About the Author

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer began her journalism career in print as a newspaper reporter in Saskatoon and then as a feature writer in Bangkok. She joined CBC Saskatchewan in 2016. Latimer shares stories on web, radio and television. Contact her: kendall.latimer@cbc.ca