In the Harry Potter universe, wizards and witches have managed to keep Muggles unaware of their existence, across the planet and over many centuries. Up to the timeframe that the novels take place in (the 1990s), I can see how this can be achieved through a combination of discretion and magic, with discretion being the preferred method on occasion (e.g., you don't need magic to slip into Platform 9 3/4 unnoticed, you just need to check that nobody is looking).

Our current world of 2016, however, its a very different place. The UK is (in)famously heavily camera-monitored (an estimated half million CCTV cameras in London alone). Even more poignantly, a very large (and growing) segment of the population carries an internet-enabled HD camera with them at all times and are willing to use it at a moment's notice (this is comedy, but it is comedy in part because a more realistic version could happen). It looks like, the moment something magical happens in public, a video of it would be on Youtube/Facebook/Twitter and within minutes.

How does the Ministry of Magic deal with this development? Do they need to create a dedicated corps to monitor social media services and alter records as necessary?

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    speculative / possible future works. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases at the end of July 2016 and is to be set 19 years post Book 7 - in other words 2016/ 2017 in the present or contemporary times
    – NKCampbell
    Jul 5 '16 at 15:57
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    A video of something magical happening appearing on social media wouldn't be that hard to contain. All you have to do is modify the memory of the person, or people, who took and originally posted the videos so that they think it was all an elaborate hoax and can claim the video was faked. Jul 5 '16 at 16:30
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    See How does the government cover up alien crash landings?. I guess similar things would work for magic.
    – Oriol
    Jul 5 '16 at 21:00
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    Easy. They just post the video on Skeptics.SE, and MoM shadow employee Oddthinking<> posts a rational takedown of why it's fake :) Jul 6 '16 at 0:47
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    @AnthonyGrist even if you don't modify the memory of the person, it would probably be enough to have a committed half-blood Youtuber going around the place where the magical event took place and say that he set up a prank/social experiment.
    – A. Darwin
    Jul 6 '16 at 14:03

Using Platform 9 3/4 as an example, Pottermore states:

There are usually a number of plain-clothed Ministry of Magic employees on hand to deal with any inconvenient Muggle memories that may need altering at the start and end of each Hogwarts term.

So we know that in the event of any direct muggle sightings, members of the ministry will be on hand to alter memories, and presumable, any devices, if need be.

From Goblet of Fire (Chapter 28), we know that electronic devices do not work at Hogwarts because magic interferes with the electricity that powers them. With this information, we can say that even a simple form of magic would interfere with any cameras or smartphones and render them unable to record anything, so people suddenly pulling out their smartphone to record a magical event (assuming they even had time), would not be able to record anything. Same for CCTV cameras.

There's also other charms that can be put into effect, such as those protecting the Quidditch World Cup, which would cause a muggle to forget what they were doing or suddenly remember an urgent appointment.

AND there's the whole factor of disbelief. Even if a Muggle successfully recorded something magical (and it's quite possible that they can't), and put it up on YouTube before the ministry could stop them, even if it got over a million views, how many of those people do you think would go "OMG MAGIC IS REAL" instead of "Oh, that's a neat trick, wonder how they did it?"

All in all, I expect that as the Muggle world becomes more sophisticated, so too does the Wizarding world. For every advancement in technology, there is an advancement in magic to work around it.

TL;DR - They use magic

  • Another element to the catching things on phone cams is that the event would happen and then the camera would come out and unless the wizard is casting multiple times you're not going to get the spell being cast just the after effect in most if not all cases when you come to phone cams, which is why youtube videos of events are always missing a critical context element.
    – Durakken
    Jul 5 '16 at 17:02

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