Facebook pages that call for murder? Punishable by law? Apparently not in the Czech Republic.
Earlier this year, a Romea article detailed the creation of a Facebook page which called for the public execution of Zdeněk Ryšavý, the executive director of the ROMEA, and the ensuing police investigation, or there lack of. In the days and weeks following the initial creation of the page, users extended potential threats to Ryšavý’s daughter, and one Facebook user even stated, “He deserves death…. Let me do it.”
When Ryšavý reported the page to Facebook for criminal activity, however, the social media giant returned to him an automatic message in little time, claiming that they did not find anything wrong with the page. A criminal report filed by Ryšavý to the Czech police also led to little fruition, as they seemed completely unwilling to pursue the criminal threats.
Situations like Ryšavý’s bring forward an important question in our evolving world of social media: should networks such as Facebook have the social and perhaps legal obligation to deal with online crimes and be held accountable in situations in which such issues are directly brought to their attention?
According to a Telegraph article, a Facebook crime is reported to police officers every 40 minutes, just in the UK alone. With similar numbers likely to be found elsewhere around the world, a clear duty to properly address such issues lies on Facebook, and just as importantly, local police officers.
Understandably, Facebook may be limited in its power to legally charge or prosecute criminals. This does not, however, excuse it from blatantly ignoring its own users’ security and safety. With the evolving nature of social media, especially Facebook, it is quickly becoming clear that despite the countless benefits that the platforms have exhibited, whether raising awareness, organizing activism, or simply just helping friends stay in touch, the ability for the networks to be abused should not be discounted. Personally, as a user of Facebook, which has been designed to foster social interaction, and to an extent, build online communities, I should not have to excuse it from supporting users like myself offline as well as online.
Image courtesy of mkhmarketing.
In Ryšavý’s case, the Czech police also failed to fulfill an obligation that crime investigators should assume in the new age of social media. Just because criminal threats may not seem direct and in person as in the pre-social network age, police cannot blow off investigations into Facebook posts with potentially severe consequences.
Fortunately for Ryšavý, after his situation gained enough publicity, the creator of the page deleted it, likely out of fear of legal consequences.
Similarly, there was a case in my high school, where a student became the target of numerous violent threats on Facebook. Again, though, Facebook did not take action when the threatening users were reported, and police also did not take sufficient action. Only when the threats became the talk of the school and the offending students became at risk of administrative punishment did the threats stop.
For future cases similar to that of Ryšavý and my high school, however, if Facebook and local police again do not take action, the outcomes might be gravely different.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ken Teegardin.