Christchurch Underbelly: When crowds turn into vigilantes


via GP Forums – pixelation by WOBH

Yesterday I ran a story about a Christchurch man who lost his smartphone.  It was stolen, but the thief didn’t know that any photos and videos taken with it were automatically uploaded to the Dropbox account of the original owner.

He shared this with his on-line community at GPForums, and what happened next was predictable:  He was asked to share the photos, and subsequently the video.  

The GP community then did what the Internet does best:  they started to dig for clues.  And they did an awesome job:  isolating the number plate of a 4WD ute as well as the actual location of the arson seen in one in the videos.

That was solid work.

But then things got out of hand.

Anyone who followed our Source attribution link will have seen that those involved on the periphery of this amateur sleuthing effort then turned to trying to find who all the people in the photos and videos are.  A natural progression, but one without anyone at the controls.


via GP Forums – pixelation by WOBH

Suddenly, all the good solid work based on fact turned into wild guess work, with people’s real names, links to their Facebook pages and other unconfirmed details were published for all to see.

This is where I drew the line in reporting on their progress.  The fun had now turned serious.

Keeping in mind, we’re dealing with Molotov Cocktail throwing scum here, the idea of publishing the photos, names and Facebook pages of the “suspects” to the public was never a good idea, and mixing in names and photos of people that may not even be involved required some degree of triage as to what to post and what to leave out.

The real problem?  The Sleuths at GP Forum still don’t know who actually took and/or operated the smartphone when the photos and videos were taken.  All the photos and personal details freely bandied about are of the people in the photos and videos, or people thought to be linked to those other names previously published for all to see.

There is one thing the GP Forum sleuths and I do agree on:  It’s time for the Police to get involved – before something happens that can’t be undone.


via GP Forums – pixelation by WOBH


H/T: kgdl, Source: GP Forums



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  • Mr_Blobby

    Pity you chose to pixilate the photos, it is highly unlikely the scum was taking random photos of people, the likely hood that they know the thief is high. Some soft cock judge will give them the kid glove treatment soon enough and name suppression.

    Nothing wrong with a bit of public shaming they may want to grow up, climb out of the gutter and and find some better friends to associate with.

  • williamabong

    These so call “super detectives” need a rocket up their collective arses, the entire case against the accused was made up from supposition and assumption, the facts as they saw them may have presented a case against the twerps they think stole the phone (and on close inspection they certainly have the credentials for the job).

    But it still doesn’t excuse the rant the accusers launched into wanting people to die etc, and the disappointment when the sheriff wouldn’t drop everything to rush around and guns drawn to attack these perps, destroyed their whole day.

    The accusers in this case seem to have 75% of the facts to arrive at 100% of the conclusion, not bad when you consider these “Boys Own” detectives seem to have an average age of 16 and an IQ to match.

    • williamabong

      No prizes for guessing who voted this comment down, it’ll be one of the 16 year old, skate park must be shut today.

    • Skorky

      I *really* do hope you realise the irony of your entire post right there, sir.

      “The accusers in this case seem to have 75% of the facts to arrive at 100% of the conclusion” he says right after making a boatload of assumptions, right before making another.

      Not doing much to disprove my *assumption* that WhaleOil readers are retarded.

  • cows4me

    Fucking poofer shoes.