We’re often warning our readers about the potential perils of social media when it comes to spreading unverified information accusing others of actions that they may or may not have committed.
Trial by social media is a serious issue and one that has the potential to destroy innocent lives. Never before have we been able to communicate messages between each other so quickly, and this can often get out of hand, especially if the information we’re passing on accuses someone of something they didn’t do.
We discuss the dangers of trial by Facebook in this blog post, and we even outline 3 popular cases where trial by social media disrupted the lives of real, innocent people here.
And the latest case of trial by social media gone wrong this week occurred when a man was mistakenly labelled a paedophile by Facebook users after a woman incorrectly thought he was taking photos of her children in the Westfield Knox shopping centre near Melbourne, Australia.
In fact the man was taking an innocent selfie of himself by the Star Wars merchandise stand located in the children’s toy section. A woman incorrectly believed he was taking photos of her children and reported the man to security.
However she also snapped a photo of the man, and curiously uploaded that photo to Facebook, identifying the man as a “creep”.
These actions on behalf of the woman were – to say the least – ill-advised. Whilst there is an argument for spreading awareness against potential predators via social media, such an argument is trampled by the potential dangers that come with taking the law into your own hands and – either directly or indirectly – promoting vigilante justice.
The photo she uploaded onto Facebook of the man soon received plenty of shares as Facebook users were quick to spread the unverified information across the social networking site, labelling him a creep and paedophile. The man received plenty of abuse from quick-to-judge Facebook users, and even found himself on the receiving end of death threats.
The man soon became aware of the post and contacted the police himself to explain the innocuous nature of his selfie. The police were satisfied with the man’s response and are urging Facebook users to stop spreading the man’s photo across Facebook.
The man, who’s selfie is above minus his face, said …
I’m a father of three kids and a normal human being… I’ve never taken a selfie before…
…I was in two minds whether to take the selfie, but I thought it’ll be a good daggy dad joke.
In real terms it was embarrassing enough to be standing in front of Darth Vader to be honest.
The incident highlights another case where Facebook users have been willing to spread unsupported information across Facebook that personally identifies and accuses an individual.
Once again, there is no place on Facebook for such actions. If you believe someone is guilty of a crime then the correct course of action is to contact the relevant authorities, as opposed to taking the law into your own hands by trying to exact justice through social media crowdsourcing.
Again, think twice before clicking share. One day one of these witch hunts could be targeted at you.
The woman who uploaded the photo later apologised to the man in question, stating “One thousand times over I wish I could just take it back. I just don’t know how to say sorry enough.”