I was privileged last night to be interviewed by Scott Laurie of CTV News Channel on a topic I've been calling "Facebook Shaming".
The video can be found here.
During our discussion, we talked about the recent case of a guy in Reno, Nevada who skipped out on a bill at a The Brewer's Cabinet restaurant, only to have a restaurant employee take his picture as he made his escape. Said photo was then posted to the eatery's Facebook page, and the owners filed a police report.
Long story short, the social media masses easily identified him - one Saul Zelaznog. He was already on probation, and as a result was arrested and charged in fairly short order.
On the plus side, social media tools give us the power to right obvious wrongs in cases where, in the past, the perpetrator would have dissolved back into anonymity. Somewhat more darkly, it opens up the potential for vigilante action before all the facts are properly gathered and investigated. Mob rules may make us feel a little better, but what if the mob picks the wrong guy? Or isn't aware of additional, mitigating or countervailing facts?
Social media, meet grey territory.
Cue Facebook today, where the true story of an anonymous letter left on the doorstep of the family of an autistic child in Newcastle, Ontario has touched off a serious discussion over how far social media users can and should go to find whoever sent the letter and bring her to justice. Here's a quick primer on some related resources:
- The originally posted letter (warning: potentially disturbing language)
- Facebook thread from my timeline
- CityNews TV report - you'll have to listen through the ad
- National Post article on impact to the family
- Yahoo! Canada article on potential police involvement
- CTV story on the Reno, Nevada incident
I have no answers, as this is an issue that will continue to evolve as the tools become ever more mature and dig more deeply into our day-to-day lives. But I'd sure like to hear your thoughts in the comments section.