Today, like many other Facebook users, I received a request to share a post. It featured a picture of a clean-cut looking young man, neatly attired and with a pleasant, open face. His name was provided, along with a few words alleging that he was visiting animal rescue centres with the specific aim of obtaining dogs for use as bait in some obviously cruel “sporting activity.”
The anonymous people behind this post urged that the young man be found and stopped without delay.
All very well and good; a despicable and inhumane activity and not one to be condoned or supported in any way.
But who was making this allegation? Certainly no one in an official capacity or any organisation. It was simply being circulated in that aimless, unthinking pass-the-parcel way of so much that is posted on Facebook.
There were no details of the locality where this young man was alleged to be operating; nor was there any information on when and how he was allegedly indulging in these activities.
He had simply been branded a criminal without evidence and by persons unknown and yet we, the great mass of Facebook users, were expected to spread his name and face still further without thought to evidence or facts.
It is frightening to think anyone, anywhere, can simply accuse another person of illegal, despicable or immoral behaviour without providing a skerrick of evidence or proof. By allowing such posts, Facebook is condoning the scrapping of “innocent until proven guilty”. It is also encouraging a vigilante attitude in which we ignore the principals of law and order and become our own judge and jury.
The young man whose picture I was invited to share may be totally innocent, his actions misinterpreted; or perhaps he has mental health or behavioural problems that need understanding and treating. Equally, he may very well be guilty of the crimes mentioned. Either way, it should be left to the police and other enforcement authorities to make the right and proper appeals for public help after all evidence has been fully considered.
To start unthinkingly sharing accusations is the start of mob rule. And the next accusatory picture we are asked to share maybe yours – and think how you will feel about that, no matter how innocent you may be.