Creep Catchers and the Social Media Mob

Creep Catchers. Private citizens who have taken it upon themselves to seek out and expose pedophiles and child abusers, because they believe the system is not doing enough to find these predators and protect our children.

In concept, it is a very noble cause. In action, however, it has become a modern day lynch mob, where Guilty before Proven Innocent is the rule and accountability is almost non existent. While there have been some cases where a previously unknown suspect has been identified and the authorities have been able to investigate, charge and arrest that suspect, there is a growing number of scenarios where there has been misidentification or the suspect has been alerted to the fact that they are under observation and disappear into the wind (potentially hindering an ongoing police investigation). Increasingly, the videos of the “outing” of possible suspects has become more aggressive and the Social Media conversation decidedly more…..threatening.

The driving force behind the mob like conversation, online, is context and a complete lack of effort to understand the entire story. The Creep Catchers expose the “bad guy” and the online crowd simply accepts this as the truth, often engaging in their own Google search about the suspect and sharing their own search results (accurate or not). Guilty or not, the target of the online exposure is tried, found guilty and convicted in a virtual version of being tarred and feathered. In some of the Creep Catchers feeds, the Page Administrator has made an attempt to quell the more aggressive or threatening posts, or has tried to control the release of any private information, but it is often without much success. Once the mobs pitchforks are sharpened and torches are lit, it is nearly impossible to pull them back from the target of their anger.

The results can be disastrous.

Take the story of¬†Katelynn McKnight, a 27-year-old woman in Edmonton, who was the target of a Creep Catchers operation. This young woman, according to a care giver and a support worker, was a “brilliant but damaged mind and the emotional maturity of a child”. Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 5.36.40 PMWithout this context and ignoring the fact that she stated her phone was stolen (a fact that the Creep Catcher was not able to confirm or deny), the President of the Edmonton Chapter posted the video and chat logs to Social Media and the Social Media mob was lit. What followed was direct and indirect harassment by the mob, who was running with even less background information than the Creep Catchers themselves. The final result? Katelynn took her own life, barely 5 months after the video was posted, without there ever being any solid evidence that she had done anything wrong. When questioned by Vice.com about the incident and its results, the President of the organization became defensive and claimed no wrongdoing on his part, yet, in a earlier private post to the family he stated “My actions have been reckless and misdirected. Forgive me as I too am a victim of abuse,” he wrote. “You have my word that the video has been taken down and the chat logs deleted“.

Herein lies the next problem; the lack of understanding when it comes to Social Media and the Internet.

The Internet NEVER forgets.

In a number of cases, across the country, content posted that misidentifies an individual or is otherwise inaccurate, is recognized and taken down by the poster, with the assumption that this will resolve the issue. It does not. There is a significant lack of understanding, amongst the Creep Catchers organization, that what is posted online is forever online, regardless of where they think it no longer laforge_1resides. Video and images are downloaded, conversations are screen captured and re-shared, the story fully in the hands of the mob that is not under the control of the person who posted it, originally. An apology and a click of the delete button does not solve the problem or absolve the originator of responsibility. It does, however, shine a light on the complete lack of accountability they have to the public and the victims of their mistakes.

The real tell tale sign, when it comes to their lack of understanding about the Social Media space, comes when their own conversations are captured and shared, such as the PM conversation between a member of the Surrey Creep Catchers and a mental health support worker. In it we can see the true one sided nature of the Creep Catchers and their inability to accept or assimilate criticism, or any position / opinion that is opposite their own. They willingly and openly accept any accolades or praise that are thrown their way, but not agreeing with them will get you either on their target list or blocked from any further conversation (I  should note that I have been blocked from many Creep Catchers Facebook Pages, but my knowledge of the Social Media space has allowed me to continue to follow and capture their conversations and vitriol).

Creep Catchers are their own worst enemy

In watching hours of Creep Catchers videos, what seems most obvious is that these vigilantes are self-involved bunch that are looking for some form of personal vindication or revenge for something that happened to them, in their lives, or are simply bullies / narcissists that are looking to feed their need for power or attention. All of this is done under the guise of protecting children and protecting the laforge_2community from a threat that, until proven by a legal authority, is only perceived.

There is also the aspects of the legal lines they cross in their efforts to expose their target. Whether it be distracted or dangerous driving, such as in a recent incident that went down in Campbell River, BC, or assault, such as the case in Swift Current, SK, where a local Creep Catcher President was charged following an altercation with one of his targets. There is a belief, amongst the organization, that they are both working within the legal parameters of the law and that they should be immune from any prosecution, because of the ‘public service’ they are offering. There is nearly no thought or consideration to the idea that their approach, in some cases, may actually build a case that allows a potential pedophile off on a legal technicality, nor is there any thought or consideration to the idea that they may be interrupting or impeding an existing investigation.

The notion of Community Policing is not a new one. Auxiliary Police, Citizens on Patrol, Block Watch and a other police sanctioned, citizen driven, organization exist. The difference is that they operate with rules and parameters that compliment what the police and the justice system do. Without these rules and the support of law enforcement and the justice system, an organization like Creep Catchers is nothing more than a vigilante organization that is dispensing their own version of “justice”. In a society of law and order, that can be as dangerous as the people they are targeting.