A family-owned motorcycle supply shop in Lower Sackville has made headlines across Nova Scotia this week because of a relatively sizable theft in their store. However the theft itself isn’t what’s causing the public and the news media to take notice; rather, it’s the shop’s unconventional use of social media in response to the incident.
As the value of the theft was only around $500, the shop owners have assumed, perhaps fairly, that the case would not be at the top of law enforcement’s priority list. After reviewing their security footage, they believe they may have found the two women responsible for the theft. Interestingly, they have taken the somewhat unprecedented step of posting the security footage online. Their hope is that with enough views and shares, they can get more information and perhaps even identify the two women in the footage.
Shop owners are perfectly within their rights, of course, to examine security footage following a theft, and attempt to identify the individuals shown therein. It’s also not unusual to see still images or even clips from such footage on the news, as part of an ongoing police investigation. The sharing of security footage on Facebook and YouTube, however, is a newer concept.
Particularly without a formal police investigation, not to mention actual proof of any kind, at what point do shoppers’ own rights become violated when something such as this is posted on major social networking sites? Sites that without doubt are used by these women’s friends, family, and coworkers, many of who may subscribe to updates from this particular shop?
Assuming for a moment there is a chance that these two women didn’t, in fact, steal anything from the shop, the owners’ posting of the video with the description “These 2 women entered our store … and stole Sons of Anarchy merchandise” could very easily be considered libelous. Even if they were in actuality the perpetrators, they still have the same right as every other citizen to remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. In the meantime, with this footage circulating online, there is potential for significant damage to their reputations.
Though posting the video may have seemed like the most efficient way to track down these two women, it may have been wiser for the shop owners to simply cut their losses, or at least wait for law enforcement to (hopefully) pursue an investigation. Unfortunately their actions, while perhaps clever, may turn out to be more trouble than they were worth in the end.
Jen Ochej is Broadview’s Social Media Manager, based out of the Halifax office.