Last week, an Elk Valley local posted a short rant on the Elk Valley Garage Sale Facebook page, claiming a minor broke into their car.
The issue? The local identified the minor, going as far as tagging him/her in the actual post.
I know, as the editor and former reporter at The Free Press, identifying a minor in an article, unless there are extenuating circumstances, is illegal and can result in disciplinary action.
Now I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not completely sure how that works with the general public but the post got me thinking, even if it’s not illegal, is it ethical?
That person essentially ruined the young persons reputation, something that is quite easy to do in a small community.
And, not to say this minor was right in breaking into a car, but it is not up to the general public to accuse someone of a crime.
That is the job of the RCMP.
There were also several other replies to the post, calling the alleged car thief names.
In my opinion, this is completely unnecessary.
Only the RCMP can charge someone with a crime, like a break and enter.
By posting someone’s name on an article or in a webpost, you are essentially charging him or her of a crime.
Once you accuse someone of something, the damage is already done.
I learned this very early in journalism school.
The post also got me thinking of social media in general.
People are quick to judge and post comments on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and once those comments are up in cyberspace, they’re there forever.
Even if the post is deleted, someone can still take a screenshot image of the page.
Things circulate on the internet so quickly, and sometimes that information isn’t always completely accurate.
We’ve all seen it happen, from major media companies circulating incorrect information in the Boston Bombings suspects, to people accusing the wrong Adam Lanza on Facebook in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
I’m not saying this individual on Elk Valley Garage Sale is relaying incorrect information but maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to accuse others, especially on the net.
I think we need to all take a step back and give ourselves time to check and recheck our facts.
We need to refrain from outing others on Facebook.
And finally, we need to let the police do their job.
As a citizen, your only job is to inform the R.C.M.P. of potential suspects, not accuse them yourselves and definitely not to persuade the rest of the community to accuse them of a crime as well.