The concept of vigilante justice is as old as the hills. Older even than Facebook, hard as that may be for the younger generation to imagine.
But the growing trend of citizens exposing suspected criminals online is a bit different to how they did it back in the Wild West.
Instead of a posse being rounded up to track down a bandit, these days people can simply sit in front of their computers then sit back and let the social media world go to work.
Such is the power and reach of the internet, it's becoming more common for business owners to post images of alleged shoplifters to shame or scare them into coming forward or return stolen goods. And presumably, to also deter other potential thieves. It's a tactic the New Zealand police also employ when trying to identify or track down offenders.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
For business owners, particularly of small to medium-sized businesses, losses from shoplifters can have a big impact on their bottom line.
So taking matters into their own hands is understandable, especially when they get results, but business owners do need to think before they click.
An identifiable picture of a person accused of committing a crime can spread like wildfire. Fair enough, you may say. Name and shame them. But what if they didn't actually do anything? What if the business was mistaken?
Innocent until proven guilty doesn't mean much when you've already been tried and convicted by social media.
Let's hope those doing the posting are doing so with caution.
- Katie Holland is the deputy editor at Rotorua Daily Post