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Last updated: August 28, 2012
First published: August 28, 2012
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer
This message, which features an inflammatory photograph of a young mother holding a bong to the mouth of a baby cradled in her lap, is currently circulating rapidly via Facebook and other social networks. The message asks people to spread the photograph in the hope that the resulting publicity will cause authorities to remove the baby from the mother's custody and not return her.
The photograph itself is genuine. And, of course the act depicted is certainly reprehensible even if it was only staged as some manner of misguided joke. However, the bong does not appear to be "working" at the time the photograph was taken. That is, there is no smoke in the bong. Moreover, even before the image went "viral" police had investigated and found no evidence that the baby had been exposed to marijuana. The photograph was snapped several months before it began circulating online. An August 18, 2012 news report in Washington's Wenatchee World states:
By the time the page went up, a Child Protective Services investigation — prompted when the photo was emailed anonymously to the agency last month — had already found no signs of drug use in the mother’s home and no evidence the baby had been exposed to marijuana.
In fact, the baby is at the center of on ongoing custody dispute. The photograph was featured on a Facebook page protesting a judge's decision to return the baby to her mother. The page was created by the 13 year old daughter of a woman who is close friends with the baby's father. The original page was later removed but not before the picture escaped its original context and began circulating as part of the above message and others. The image has now "gone viral" on the Internet.
In fact, both parents have admitted to prior drug use. However, the Wenatchee World article further notes:
But the CPS investigation found no evidence the mother’s home was unsafe for the baby, according to court records. The mother’s sworn affidavit said the agency found no issues at her home, and she passed a urinalysis requested by investigators. She asked the court to appoint an independent guardian ad litem to ensure the baby’s needs were being met.
A second urine screening later that month was also negative, and in Allan’s court the mother agreed to take parenting classes and meet a schedule of further drug testing. Her attorney, Neil Fuller of Wenatchee, said hair follicles taken from the baby’s head also showed no trace of pot exposure.
The case is ongoing and this sort of online activism as inappropriate and unlikely to help procure the best outcome for the pictured child. For more detailed information about the case and the photograph please refer to the Wenatchee World news report.
How a custody fight spilled out of court, and exploded online