Facebook comment labels wrong man as child predator; threats ensue

Recently, the Irish online publication, KildareNow, ran a story about a convicted child molester, Anthony Luckwill,  who had allegedly been spotted several times that week in town of Monasterevin.  In addition to running the story on their site, KildareNow also posted the story on Facebook, along with a photo of Luckwill.

As one would expect, readers commented on the story.  One Facebook commenter took it a step further and posted what this person said was another photo of the sex offender.  As it turns out, it was a photo of the wrong man.  Shortly after the comment went up, the unsuspecting man was confronted by an angry mob at a local pub.  The situation got so heated that police had to escort the man to safety.

In the wake of this incident, KildareNow issued this statement:

They have also deleted the article on their web site and issued an apology to the man who found himself caught up in this mess.

However, this entire incident has raised questions about the accuracy of KildareNow‘s report on this story.  According to The Irish Times, there was no evidence that the Anthony Luckwill was even in the town last week. In its apology, Kildarenow seems to admit that it hadn’t independently verified this claim:

“Yesterday, KildareNow published an article based on the concerns of parents in Monasterevin and elsewhere that convicted sex offender Anthony Luckwill was seen in these areas,”

Police have also issued a public statement, stressing that the man pictured in the Facebook comment is just an innocent victim in this fiasco and is asking that the public refrain from taking matters into their own hands.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to fight crime but, people have to avoid engaging in mob rule.  When you get things wrong, the results can be disastrous.

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An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.