Be careful what you say on social media, warn the local police.
“It has to be based on more than your opinion,” says Sgt. Darryl Orr from the Greater Trail RCMP. “When you are slandering someone in the media, it affects fine people’s reputations, and is devastating to the family.”
Orr was clearly frustrated speaking about a situation that spun out of control this week after two young women posted a photo on Facebook, showing a man drinking coffee in a Trail fast food restaurant.
The pair wrote the middle-aged male was taking their photos and acting suspicious, so they warned others and asked if anyone knew him.
“Of course with Facebook being the galloping site it is, this news travelled everywhere,” Orr said. “And with social media it doesn’t matter if you are innocent, as soon as people start chiming in, Facebook becomes a feeding frenzy.”
Therein lies the very serious outcome with posting erroneous information in social media.
The local man is completely innocent of any wrong doing, Orr confirmed.
He was simply enjoying a cup of coffee.
“They felt it was a suspicious occurrence, so we investigated accordingly and hoped to identify the male from a clip of video we obtained,” the sergeant explained.
“It is not illegal, it could be unethical, but certainly not illegal, people take pictures and video out in public places all the time. It’s not against the law,” he added. “So basically, we were trying to identify this man just for our information more than anything and to see if the girls might have been in danger.”
But the police didn’t have to look far, because in fact, the photo circulated so rapidly on Facebook, that the man called the police Wednesday morning to self identify.
And, his daughter who lives and works in Alberta, saw it the next morning, and also called the Trail RCMP.
“We determined conclusively the man was there for no other reason that just having a cup of coffee and being a patron,” said Orr.
“But this poor guy’s daughter called me from Calgary, so did the son and his wife – they are absolutely devastated.”
Orr spent the majority of his work day trying to settle the matter.
“That’s the basis of this whole thing,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone all day dealing with this and it’s a whole lot of nothing, a noncriminal event, and a waste of taxpayer’s money.”
The lesson is, if you don’t know the facts, don’t start posting things on social media, he reiterated.
“I dealt with the two young girls, who I have to say were very polite and cooperative,” Orr clarified, adding the Facebook post has since been removed. “But at the same time, there needs to be more responsibility with social media, especially with young people.
“Remember that people have a reputation, and it can be ruined regardless of right, wrong, truth or lie – and that’s what is behind this whole thing – completely nothing, and it’s a good lesson.”