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Comment on Source Facebook nets reader a conversation with cops
A comment posted on Facebook has earned the author a conversation with police, according to Castlegar RCMP Sgt. Laurel Mathew.
The comment was in reference to a story posted on the Castlegar Source Facebook page about a Sunflower City man convicted of criminal charges, and openly threatened the man named in the story.
Source editor Kyra Hoggan deleted the Facebook comment off the Source page almost immediately, but not before it came to the attention of RCMP.
"It was a direct threat to cause bodily harm, on a public page," said Mathew.
"Whether it's written, text, email, voice mail, phone, internet, Facebook – whatever — if you threaten bodily harm, we will follow it up."
The original story appeared on the Castlegar Source October 11, and the comment was posted, then deleted, the same day.
Mathew said there seems to be a perception that if threats or harassment happen online, they shouldn't be taken seriously and police won't see them.
"We're not randomly monitoring personal Facebook profiles, but I'm on Facebook and I read the Castlegar Source," Mathew explained.
"Lots and lots of police officers follow online news all the time."
She said the idea that an online crime carries less weight than if committed through some other medium is irrational.
"A threat is a threat," she said, adding she knows of several criminal harassment cases in the courts right now, which are using text, Facebook and email materials as evidence against the defendants.
Immediately after deleting the Facebook post, Hoggan brought the issue to police attention.
“The last thing I want to do is discourage people from interacting on our Facebook page, or on our site,” Hoggan said.
“By the same token, I’m morally, and maybe legally, obligated to report any assertion that someone intends to commit a crime.”
Hoggan, a longtime journalist who worked at various newspapers in the West Kootenay, including Grand Forks, Castlegar and Nelson, does not want to stifle the public from using Facebook.
However, she said she draws the line when it comes to this kind of post.
“And at the risk of sounding mercenary, I’m not okay with comments that have the potential to get me sued or in trouble with the police,” Hoggan said.
“This is a business page, and a public one which, not incidentally, can be accessed by children.
“This kind of commentary is not acceptable, and falls well outside the boundaries of freedom of speech, as I understand them.”
Police decided this time to have a chat with the person responsible for the Facebook post.
Charges are not being considered at this time.
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