Friday, 5 April 2013

From Sandy Hook to Derby: Facebook memorial fraud, the dark side of online catharsis

This week has frankly, been a pretty horrible one in terms of news.

The tragedy of what unfolded in the home of Mick and Mairead Philpott in May 2012 should not be excused or blamed on a culture of any kind - benefits, working class or any other. It was a shocking, terrible crime with an equally tragic outcome.

Sadly, as per usual, the unedifying facts of the case, and the outcome, has brought out the more odious elements on our social networks here in the UK. Like lifting a rock to find all kinds of creepy crawlies underneath, our newsfeeds have become flooded with images and updates we'd rather not see.

Who really gained anything from posting this?

Philpott Facebook

Or this?

Philpott Facebook

Sadly, somebody does gain out of it. What upsets me about this kind of expression is that the people who cooked up these memes don’t do it because they want people to be able to express grief, or indulge in any form of social catharsis (rightly or wrongly). Most of the time, the memorial pages that create this content are set up and moderated by individuals who are trying to ‘farm’ likes and shares on Facebook, in order to grow a page which will then be sold to the highest bidder.

It has happened before, with the precedent being set during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in December - lots of hoax memorial pages set up on Facebook to exploit people’s genuine grief.

Here’s an explanation of the phenomena from a recent episode of BBC’s Saturday edition.



So in short? Please be careful of what you share. Chances are the people sharing these images and liking these pages are being exploited by those wanting to make a pretty penny.

So what can we do to try and stop these hoaxes spreading NOW?

Report them - but please don’t feed the pockets of online fraudsters by sharing these images.

No ifs, no buts - it has no place in society. We need to show now more than ever that social media can be a tool for real, positive change - not just in getting the big things right, but in setting right the injustices we see in our collective newsfeeds every day.

Let's take our social media back from the fraudsters! 

Fight back against the hoaxers - and remember, together the ants can conquer the elephant.