Assuming that this article from The Observer is true (I didn’t check. Sue me.), the same guy is listed as a victim in multiple terrorist attacks or tragedies (Paris, Istanbul, Orlando, etc.). Sometimes they even used the same photo when they listed him as one of the dead or missing.
When people noticed the repeated photo and began to wonder how the same man could have died so many times and in so many different places, they decided to look into it. They found out that the people who originally posted his photo on social media and said that he was a victim of various tragic events used to be his friends before he stole a lot of money from them. Now, besides suing him, they decided to get revenge on him by posting his picture all over the internet and ruining his reputation.
Yes, you heard that right. They’re posting their former-friend’s pictures on the internet as victims of tragedies to get revenge on him for stealing their money.
What does the rest of The Observer article discuss? The legalities of the situation. Is it legal to post someone’s photo online for revenge? What possible litigation could the first person to post it face in different countries?
To me, those are interesting side notes, but they’re not the main issues/lessons to be learned from the situation. The issues I see are
- Internet Lies
- No Take-backs
The internet lies. Ok, the internet isn’t sentient (we hope). It’s the people who lie. They lie by posting things out of context. They lie by stealing someone else’s work and posting it as their own. They lie by posting things that they know aren’t true to mess with people, to make them think a certain way, to get revenge, or just because they can.
So many people don’t even question whether something they read on the internet is true or not. They read it and send it on as if it were gospel. And all that does is spread the lies. Even if The Observer article was a total lie, it would still show very clearly that you cannot trust everything you read on the internet.
I’m not naive enough to think that most people are going to pick up on that lesson and change their ways, but the more the message is put out there, the better chance there is that some people will.
And that links right to the no take-backs issue. Once you post something on the internet and people start sharing it, you have no control over what happens to it after that. It could become part of someone’s lie. It could be used to promote something that you hate. It could become viral, turning a private joke into an internet-wide sensation.
All other repercussions aside, that means that if you post something for revenge and then change your mind, it may be too late. You might want to google all the people who’ve lost their jobs over stupid twitter posts before you decide to make an impulse post on a public forum.
As for the last topic, that’s the one that I’m really surprised that they didn’t address. I can see skipping the others. They’re pretty generic. As important as I think they are, you could link them with most article topics. So maybe they’ve beaten those dead horses enough, and I just don’t know it. But I don’t see how they skipped the topic of respect in this article.
Those people put photos of a living man on lists of the dead to get revenge. Lists of the victims. Those lists are to honor the dead. In the case of ongoing searches, they are to help identify remains and find people again. They are not there to be part of your sick joke because someone owes you money. If you want to ruin someone’s reputation, if you want to get revenge on someone, you don’t disrespect the dead and their grieving families to do it.
You don’t troll murder victims and their families. Not if you have any respect for the dead. But if that article is true, then that’s exactly what those people did. They showed zero respect and even less empathy for the people involved in those tragedies, and I cannot believe that The Observer didn’t even touch on that aspect of the situation. They missed the biggest point of the situation. Or do you really think nitpicky legalities are more important than human decency?