A convicted child rapist in Northern Ireland is suing both Facebook and a Facebook page administrator, claiming that the admin posted his exact address to a paedophile-monitoring page.
The administrator of the page, “Keeping our kids safe from predators II”, is Joe McCloskey.
That site seems to have been abandoned, but a similarly named site, “Keeping our kids safe from predators 2“, as of Friday seemed to be picking up where the other page left off.
McCloskey admitted in High Court to “naming and shaming” 400 sex offenders on the Facebook page.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, as of Thursday the High Court was seeking un-redacted versions of evidence to get to the bottom of what, exactly, the Facebook vigilante posted.
The plaintiff can’t be identified.
He’s claiming misuse of private information, harassment and breaches of the data protection act.
He filed charges after his photograph and details appeared last year on the Facebook page, alleging that among the wrathful comments posted to the page were calls for violence against him and inquiries about his address.
The court heard that one commenter called for the man to be hung, while others wanted to see him shot.
The man told the court he was then threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema, and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.
Beyond the 400 sex offenders McCloskey says he’s named and shamed on the site, he told the court that he’s also helped to secure seven convictions.
But no, he said, he’s not responsible for instigating mob violence, pointing out that the page includes a disclaimer that opposes violence or intimidation.
McCloskey also claimed that he would remove sex offenders’ exact addresses if any user posted such details.
A Google search disproves that assertion, the plaintiff’s lawyers said.
Their evidence included postings on a website for sex offenders that were attributed to McCloskey.
In one of those postings, which were redacted, he comments on a rapist “living in flats near…”.
The judge said that it was possible to infer from the blanked-out comment that the defendant does, in fact, provide addresses.
One of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Peter Girvan, also pointed to references to hammers in the comments, contrary to McCloskey’s insistence that he never incited violence.
As of Thursday, the hearing was continued, as McCloskey’s attorney confirmed that he’ll seek un-redacted versions of the evidence.
There’s a lot going on with this case.
It’s about whether convicted child abusers should be publicly outed. It’s about keeping communities safe from those known to be dangerous to children.
And it is most certainly about the practice of online vigilantism.
It brings to mind Anonymous, its splinter groups, and the hacktivist fondness for posting addresses and other personal details of people they’ve deemed responsible for wrongs, such as George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin…
…or perhaps those only tangentially related to wrongs.
To me, this case is a parallel to what Mrs. Wisniewski eloquently described on Naked Security with regards to the Trayvon Martin case, which involved the spread of killer George Zimmerman’s purported address across social media:
These are deep-rooted societal problems that require ongoing conversations about how things got that way in the first place and what sustained efforts we can make to change them - indeed, how to hack human systems - but the very nature of Anonymous makes dialogue impossible.
Swap “Anonymous” for “Facebook vigilantes” and the heart of the matter becomes the danger of mob justice.
In the case of Zimmerman, the purported address turned out to be for a married Florida couple, both in their 70s, who had no connection whatsoever to the man who killed Trayvon Martin.
In spite of that lack of connection, the couple were forced to live in fear, all due to erroneous reports about their connection to the shooter.
All that the would-be vigilante got wrong in the case of George Zimmerman was a middle initial.
That’s not all he got wrong, of course – he got the legal system wrong. He got it wrong when he presumed that justice would result from targeting somebody outside of a courtroom.
Likewise, with regards to the case being heard this week in Ireland, I submit that there are better ways to protect children than a Facebook page that incites vigilantism.
There are sites such as this one that provide advice on how to protect children from predators in the offline world.
Here at Naked Security, we’ve also published tips on how to help keep children safe online, such as:
- 10 tips to keep your kids and teens safe online
- Security begins at home – how to do a “back to basics” security overhaul on your family network
- Do these 3 essential security tasks for your family today
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this case in the comments section below.
Image of pointed finger courtesy of Shutterstock.
16 comments on “Child abuser sues Facebook and page admin over allegedly posting his address”
Do you have the right to have the truth about you suppressed? Is someone’s home address actually protected information? Remember when it was just in the phone book? Now it’s in Google. And, apparently, Facebook. And child rapers don’t like it one bit.
the problem is you can be on that “sex offenders list” for just about anything minor (but maybe he has abused children maybe he hasn’t, he now have to move house now)
what happens when this type of stuff happens they just move house and do not notify the registry of where he has moved to (they go technically underground) so now even the police do not know where he is any more
However distasteful or downright evil the crime, a criminal has the right to a fair trial in a court of law, with punishment meted out by a judge. If you don’t think the punishment is harsh enough, petition to have it increased.
When people start taking “justice” into their own hands, then your society has failed.
But is someone’s home address actually a secret? If they bought the house by definition it is in the public record. As Miss Manners pointed out to a man who had just such a crime in his past, the sentence society deals out is more than just prison time. He can potentially but not certainly rehabilitate his reputation, but he cannot point to time served and say “DONE!” He must start again and work hard to earn the trust of the public, having once proven so shockingly that he did not deserve it.
Agreed. But most people who call for these details to be made public knowledge – and particularly those who “name and shame” on Facebook – aren’t interested in rehabilitation, or allowing the criminal a chance to earn back the trust they’ve destroyed. They’re only interested in handing out extra-judicial punishment, because they believe the sentence was insufficient.
I just find it bizarre that someone who thinks a criminal has got off lightly would put so much time and effort into “mob justice”, rather than petitioning their politicians and law-makers to increase the punishment. Wouldn’t it be better to keep these people locked up until they are no longer a threat, rather than releasing them and relying on the public to punish them further?
Yes, but the timelines on legislative and judicial reform tend to discourage citizen initiatives relative to the immediate satisfaction of saying “We are all watching you.”
If it was just “we’re all watching you”, I don’t think there would be a problem. It’s when it becomes “we’re all coming round to your house to burn it down with you in it” that the problems start.
I hear you, but then I haven’t seen that. I see a lot of alarmism around it though. Not one person has been injured as a result of an Anonymous doxing, for instance, although the courts treat doxing as invitation to assault. It just doesn’t work that way.
I probably can’t post links here because of the spam filter.
In the UK, we’ve not only had a paediatrician attacked by an angry and illiterate mob; we also recently had an innocent disabled man facing false accusations by a neighbour with a grudge who was dragged out of his house, doused with lighter fluid, and burned to death.
None of the people who later appeared on the news condemning these actions had stepped in to stop them, because at the time, they though the target was a paedophile. Which obviously makes whatever you do to them OK.
We have people who will debate the ethics of the death penalty; whether Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden should have been killed; who will tell you that torture is never justified, even if the intelligence services claim it’s the only way to extract information needed to save lives. But put those same people in charge of punishing a paedophile, and the only questions will be “how long can we torture him before we kill him”, and “what’s the most painful way we can torture him to death”.
Protecting the children is such an instinctual response that the rational brain often doesn’t get a look-in. Actions which would normally seem abhorrent can seem perfectly reasonable if we perceive a threat to a child.
Interesting. I wonder if there is deliberate suppression of the reporting of those incidents.
Just in case the links are allowed:
If he’s registered, as required by law then his information is already public knowledge.
In the public record, possibly (it varies by jurisdiction) but not in the information bank of most people.
Medical research has shown that pedophilia is not curable. Hence since its victims are children susceptible of exploitation by adults, it’s vital that convicted pedophiles be publicly identified.
If we don’t have a problem with identifying criminals convicted of petty theft, why shouldn’t we id those convicted of the basest crimes against children?
While mistakes can be made that is a matter of trade off–and while some societies might differ, mine opts for child safety versus criminal “privacy”
Someone publicly identified as a petty thief is unlikely to face death-threats from angry mobs.
If you have genuine medical research to prove that these people cannot be rehabilitated, and will always be a danger to children, then you should be petitioning to introduce mandatory whole-life sentences, not to tell the angry mob where they live so you and the boys can “sort it out”.
There’s certainly a case to be made for telling people who *need* to know – schools being the obvious case. But if the criminal is so dangerous that the general public have to be given their details, then they shouldn’t have been released.
And all of that ignores the inaccuracies generally associated with “naming and shaming” by vigilantes on Facebook.
Honestly I cant say I wouldn’t make a convicted child molester feel unwanted in my neighborhood. I have no pity for these people and Karma is a b*&#h. When you do something that bad, bad things are going to happen to you. Would they rather be shamed and be “free” or deal with what will happen in prison. Historically child molesters don’t fair too well in prison.