I’ve talked to you about this subject multiple times and I’ll probably talk about it more in the future because these posts keep popping up in my Facebook feed and occasionally in the form of warning emails. You’ve seen them, the posts that state someone is a child abuser or an animal abuser. They call the person out by name and say to look out for them. For example, the post below accuses the guy pictured of being an animal abuser that goes about to shelters looking to adopt dogs to use in dogfighting. It requests that everyone share the post. I blacked out the poor guy’s name because, at this point, he’s got enough problems.
Whenever I see a post like this that, I do an interesting little thing. I do a little checking to see if it’s real before I accuse someone of a crime. This post was just a photo by itself with no link to a news story or anything to back up the accusation, so I used the magic of Google. I discovered this post has been going around for years. While the guy in the photos has been arrested, he’s never been charged with dogfighting. He was once apparently charged with punching an owl while paragliding and he’s got a string of traffic arrests. He was also a very controversial politician where he lived. Making up this story might have been politically motivated or just one of those cases where someone grabs a photo, makes something up, and tries to see how many people are suckered into sharing it.
When I tell you about stories like this, I always pull out something that happened to a guy in my area. This happened back when I was working in news, so I remember the story well. An ex-girlfriend, who was bitter with him over a custody case, created a fake Facebook account and shared a photo of this guy claiming he was wanted for being a child molester and that the police were looking for him. The photo and his name were shared 35,000 plus times. Police confirmed that this man was not wanted for anything and that he’d never been accused of being a child molester. Even after the original photo was removed his photo still continues to be shared to this day. Who knows how many views it has racked up by now.
Before you share anything that claims someone is a criminal or has done something wrong, take a few minutes to do a little research to find out if there’s any kind of independent verification. If you don’t have time to do the search, you don’t have time to share the photo. Remember, someone could just as easily use your photo or the photo of someone you care about.