Erica went to work like she always did, with a smile and kind words for others. Knocked to the ground by a felon grabbing for her gun, she was saved when an onlooker distracted the man, allowing the highway patrol officer to fire a fatal shot and free herself.
Forrest went to work like he always did, with a smile and kind words for others. Knocked to the floor by the gunshot of a felon who was grabbing for the cash register, the clerk succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. The felon was able to free himself and was located months later.
The cop and the clerk -- they have families, parents, siblings, many friends and they share common threads -- Facebook threads.
Before Erica’s loved ones were notified properly, a stream of rumors and assumptions flooded social media, including her full name.
Before Forrest’s whole family was afforded the opportunity for proper protocol, everyone on the World Wide Web knew he was dead.
For some well-wishers it was a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. For others who simply enjoy gossip, it was a chance to get in on the ground floor. The usual meanies added poison opinions, as well.
These are people -- their mortality -- not some silly Facebook game. There were crime scene investigations in progress that the Internet blathering stood to compromise.
We got online and knocked down comments, explained the severity of the situations, asked those posting to be kind and respectful. Some were and some were not.
Situations just like the aforementioned prompted police in Washington state to ask members of the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts with the “TweetSmart” campaign, which kicked off in July. It is a collective plea from nine agencies, including the Washington State Patrol and the Seattle Police, to be aware of social media’s potential impact on law enforcement cases.
As regular citizens, technology has allowed us to expose civil rights issues, capture immoral acts and even catch killers. It is my humble opinion that people should shoot photos and videos, but use your common sense. Bring evidence to the attention of an appropriate organization. Before posting anything online, understand some information could and should wait. Remember the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like to be treated.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle