Beyond the Headlines

Facebook justice

Posted: May 18, 2012 12:12 PM ET Last Updated: May 18, 2012 12:12 PM ET

 "There will be a lot of people on Facebook eating a big plate of crow today".

Those were the words of Eva Campbell, upon hearing that Christopher Falconer, a convicted murderer out on parole, had been charged with killing Amber Kirwan. Campbell, is Mason Campbell's mother, Amber's boyfriend.

Shortly after Amber disappeared while walking from a New Glasgow bar to meet Mason, social media sites were flooded with rumours and innuendo, many pointing the finger of blame at Campbell.

"They weren't just suggesting he was involved", says Campbell, "they came right out and said he was guilty."

It didn't help that Mason seemed to stumble through media interviews about his actions and whereabouts after Amber failed to show up for their meeting in the parking lot of Big Al's convenience store.

And we all know police questioned Campbell and given the sad fact female victims of crime so often die at the hands of a boyfriend or husband, police would have considered him a person of interest in the early stages of their investigation. But while police used facts and evidence to determine Campbell's innocence, that didn't stop those on social media from convicting him.

"You can imagine how bad it was", says Eva Campbell, "they just said whatever they thought, and pretty much twisted anything anybody said".

Campbell says at first they tried to ignore the comments. Then they tried to answer people's questions. But that didn't last long.

"It just seemed like if we said anything, we were lying; if we tried to defend him we were lying, and if we didn't say anything we were guilty."

Eva Campbell says some even called for vigilante justice. There were calls for Mason to be beaten and assaulted. People said they hoped Mason got what he deserved. In fact, Campbell says Mason was punched in the face one night while at a pub, for no apparent reason.

And the comments just kept coming. The night before Falconer was charged, while reports were circulating that two people had been arrested, some posted on Facebook that Mason Campbell was one of them.

Campbell says there were also messages of support and the family tried to tell themselves to simply ignore the rants of a few "morons". But in chatting with her, you could tell that didn't work; you could feel the hurt and lingering bitterness over the phone line.

I asked Campbell if she had a message for those who flock to social media to eagerly spread and consume the rumour and gossip that always surrounds cases like this.

"If you don't have confidence in your facts to say it to somebody's face", says Campbell, "then don't say it at all."
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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