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When Is It Ok To Name And Shame People On Social Media?

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 08:15 PM

Sourced from: http://www.stuff.co....on-social-media


When is it OK to name and shame people on social media?
Last updated 18:59, January 7 2016

Kiwi singer-songwriter Lizzie Marvelly took to social media to try and get back her family's stolen belongings.

Social media allows every day people to play detective but there are risks associated with naming and shaming others online.

Pictures of people believed to have stolen something, scammed someone or some other wrongdoing, often show up on community Facebook pages and other social media platforms.

While some of these are come from CCTV footage or mugshots released by police, in the hopes of gathering more information, others are taken on mobile phones and posted in the hope of getting revenge or warning others of someone believed to be a crook.

On Tuesday, Kiwi singer-songwriter Lizzie Marvelly posted a CCTV picture of a man believed to have stolen precious family items from a Rotorua hotel room on social media.

* Lizzie Marvelly takes to Twitter to solve crime at family hotel
* Facebook poster to be sued by grandfather

Clayton Pinkney runs the South Auckland Grapevine Facebook community page but there's no place for naming and shaming on his forum.

Rotorua Police have said they're confident the songstress-turned-vigilante named and shamed the right guy and hope the post will help catch the thief as soon as possible.

But social media investigators don't always get it right - in some cases a misplaced name and shame has ended in legal action, risk to the person's safety and in some cases, death.

A police spokeswoman said people were not encouraged to take matters into their own hands.

They should report concerns about individuals direct to police or other "significant authorities" so the issue can be dealt with appropriately.
"Police use social media to seek the public's assistance in identifying individuals and seeking information about a range of matters.

"However, we have clear guidelines about when the names or pictures of individuals are put into the public domain through social media and other public channels."

Anyone who chose to post the names or photos of individuals on social media should be aware that they were responsible for that content and any associated legal liabilities, she said.

Meanwhile, Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt said the practice was becoming increasingly common.

"A lot of people set up their own security cameras and things like that. Burglars are filmed and the owners or victims put them on Facebook asking for information," he said.

"Quite often, people see their own photos on Facebook, or their friends and family see them and tell them about it, and they get in touch with us to get things sorted out."

Perhaps, because once that happens the post gets taken down, he said.

"It does get it out to a very wide audience - that's one of the strengths and weaknesses of (social media)."

A weakness, because they have to be certain the person pictured is an actual suspect.


Social media users on Reddit wrongly accused Sunil Trepathi of being behind the 2013 Boston bombings.

The administrator behind the popular South Auckland Grapevine community Facebook group says he has a non-naming and shaming policy.

Clayton Pinkney set up the group about a year ago and it now has about 3000 members.

UK man Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten and burned to death after his neighbours wrongly believed rumours he was a paedophile.

UK man Bijan Ebrahimi was beaten and burned to death after his neighbours wrongly believed rumours he was a paedophile.

While constructive criticism was welcome on the page, Pinkney and the other two admins would remove any naming and shaming posts.

Otago University associate professor of law Selene Mize said there were a host of possible legal repercussions facing vigilantes who got it wrong.

Posters could risk things like hindering a police investigation, defaming someone, breaching their privacy, or breaking suppression orders from the court.

"For courts and the police, there is little tolerance of private action."

However, some people were willing to take those risks if it meant they could alert others of the wrongdoing, shonky dealings or bad service of a certain person or company, Mize said.

There was also the chance a post identifying someone believed to have done something wrong could lead to violence, she said.

"Social media rage" directed at the person who made the post or violent vigilantism against the person named were both real risks, Mize said.


One of the most famous examples of a failed attempt at social media solving a crime came about following the 2013 Boston bombings.

A group of internet detectives got it very wrong when they banded together in an attempt to figure out who was behind the attacks in the hours after the devastation.

As a result, Sunil Tripathi was wrongly accused of the attacks after Reddit users put two and two together and came up with five.

It was later discovered the 22-year-old was dead but not before his family were subjected to the online witch hunt.

In 2013, an innocent man was beaten then burned to death in the United Kingdom after his neighbours wrongly believed rumours he was a paedophile, the Daily Mail reported.

Bijan Ebrahimi was labelled a paedophile by his community in Bristol after he was seen taking photos of children.

However, the 44-year-old disabled man, originally from Iran, was gathering evidence of the children vandalising his hanging baskets to give to the police.

And in New Zealand last year an aggrieved grandfather decided to take legal action against a woman who posted to Facebook to accuse him of inappropriately touching his grandson.
The woman who made the claim, on an open page, named the child and his grandfather and asked people to share the post but the man denied the claims.

- Stuff



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