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Unsubstantiated Facebook Rumour - Lance K***** Paedophile Warning

Outline
Circulating message claims that a man named Lance tried to pick up a 13-year-old girl that he contacted via Facebook. The message includes a photograph allegedly depicting the man.

Rumour — Stock Photo

© Depositphotos.com/ Feng Yu



Brief Analysis
The claims in the message remain unsubstantiated. The message offers no evidence to back up its claims. Reposting public accusations of this nature without evidence is irresponsible, counterproductive, and could result in legal action against those who create and repost them. A number of people share the name listed in the warning. Its continued circulation could unfairly damage the reputations of innocent people. If true, the incident should have been reported to police, not sent out without evidence via social media. Posting unsubstantiated accusations via Facebook is not a responsible and ethical method of keeping children safe online.

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Example

THIS MANS NAME IS LANCE K*****. HE IS FROM [omitted]. HE TRIED TO PICK UP MY 13 YO DAUGHTER. HE GOT ON HER FRIENDS LIST AN REQUESTED ALL OF HER FRIENDS AFTER SHE TOLD HIM SHE WOULDN'T MEET HIM AN IS TRYING TO GET ALL OF THEM TO MEET UP WITH HIM. REPOST THIS.


Detailed Analysis


This breathless ALL CAPS social media message accuses a man named Lance of attempting to meet up with a 13-year-old girl that he contacted via Facebook. The message claims that, after the girl refused to meet him, he tried to get her friends to meet him instead. The post includes a photograph allegedly depicting the man in question. It asks that users repost the information and photograph to warn others.

However, the claims in the message have not been substantiated. The warning provides not so much as a shred of evidence to back up its claims. The original poster of the message is not identified nor does the message include any references to support its accusations. The Facebook profile of the alleged perpetrator is not included either.

Thus, there is no way of ascertaining if the warning describes a real incident. It could have simply been made up as a means of exacting revenge on the person named in the message. Or it could have been the result of a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of motives.

Moreover, many people share the same name as the person accused in the message and there are a great many more with very similar names.  Thus, innocent people who simply share a name with the accused could have their reputations unfairly tarnished.

And, of course, if the pictured person is innocent of the accusations, then the post could have a detrimental and ongoing impact on his life.

Furthermore, even if the incident did take place as described, launching a public accusation on Facebook is NOT a responsible way to deal with the matter. If true, the incident should have been reported to police and left for them to deal with. Trial by Facebook is counterproductive. Unwarranted publicity and premature accusations can jeopardize police investigations and potentially compromise future court proceedings.

Sharing such unconfirmed rumours is therefore both irresponsible and immoral. And if such public accusations turn out to be unfounded, those who created and reposted the information could face significant legal consequences.

Before sharing such accusations via Facebook or any other public media, it is very important that users first verify that the accusations have substance. And, even if the accusations are based on real incidents, social media uses would do well to think twice before sharing, at least until official police reports about the incidents have been released.

It is of course very important that we take measures to keep children safe online. However, sending on unverified rumours that accuse people of wrongdoing without evidence is not an effective or responsible method of protecting our children.

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Last updated: October 8, 2013
First published: October 8, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
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