Some people will do anything for attention –– and to boost the numbers of their likes and followers on the social media. They will even masquerade as the representatives of the traditional and authentic Press, posting up to date and on-the-spot reports and photos of events, and spreading shocking and offensive material.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter are their primary vehicles by which their postings go viral, giving the right to know a very bad image and cause for suppression.
Sometimes, given their severe lack of training in news investigation and management, they exhibit no etiquette at all, offering instead skewed judgement, bad behaviour and gross insensitivity on the Internet –– to the point that observers have wondered if they should not be criminally liable for the false or misleading information they post online. The question is, naturally, could these lawless offenders be successfully prosecuted?
In the United States where there seems to be no limit to the lawlessness, anarchy, barbarity and falsity on social media, people have posed as perpetrators using others’ IDs, mimicking crimes and manufacturing virtual crime scenes akin to matters already taken place in their communities –– and even already under full investigation –– as a means of a game to test the wits of the police. All this when the families of victims are suffering grief and trauma.
As far as we are concerned, such activities are crimes, and ought to be dealt with as such –– prosecutorially! People who perpetrate these offences of misreport, misinformation and falsification online should not be difficult to trace, and should be held accountable –– and punished.
The tampering on social media by these miscreants ought to transliterate to leaving their fingerprints at the scene of a crime. Social media may yet be the crime-solving tool, if a warrant can get investigators access to Facebook and Twitter activity for months prior.
The piggybacking, of course, on this criminality for fun and social media notoriety would be tempting to idle hands and unproductive minds. And parents, guardians, society’s leaders will need to join the crusade in discouraging such among our youth.
The one major headache now among us, according training director Yvonne Alexander of the Regional Security System Training Institute at Paragon, is the reckless posting on Facebook and other social media of photographs of crime scenes –– which go “viral in no time at all” and which action could negatively affect the outcome of an investigation.
Ms Alexander is clearly neither impressed nor amused by this.
“Sometimes this creates more harm. Number one, there is the trauma to the relatives of the individual who probably do not even have the information yet that there has been a serious incident.
“And then there is also the issue of the fact that the scene has gone viral, and what it means in relation to the successful investigation. Because you never know, depending on the incident, what the photograph going viral has caused.”
It is an observation made a couple of times before by Royal Barbados Police Force public relations officer Inspector David Welch, whose plea for a show of sensitivity by these amateur, foolhardy, “sharing” photographers has gone for the most part unheeded. And it remains so because these social media informants are content to be uncaring or be crassly ignorant of the problems they could create.
But more seriously, Ms Alexander is worried that rushed social media posting of a crime scene would undermine the work of first responders, primarily by unwitting altering of circumstances and possible contaminating of evidence, which would naturally impact the ability of police investigators to properly and thoroughly investigating the crime at hand.
The offshoot of this will likely be a public criticism of the police when they are unable to be conclusive in their findings because of public interference.
Ms Alexander does make another moot point though. It is the very public who have a moral and civic duty to help ensure their own security by cooperating fully with the police. They cannot continue to see themselves as playing no role in their own safety from criminals. Crime fighting is not solely the responsibility of the police. It is the duty of all of us.
So if you have a tendency to shoot scenes for posting, try breaking the habit; and if you know of others who do, try dissuading them –– for all our sakes!