AND ANOTHER THING... Amber Peat message arrest only scratches the surface of social media dangers

Tragic: Amber Peat
Tragic: Amber Peat

The arrest of a young man over a vile message posted on Facebook about tragic youngster Amber Peat is interesting. Very interesting in fact.

It’s testament to the seriousness of leaving thoughtless and disgusting messages on the web.

But in reality, it’s what many people do each day without giving it a second thought.

Pitchforks have been traded in for computer keyboards as baying mobs are regularly rounded up in a virtual world.

‘Keyboard warriors’ and aptly-named ‘trolls’ plague the net, you only need to check out Chad’s Facebook site to see that.

Brilliantly misspelt (not simply slip-of-the-finger typos that we’re often guilty of), bile-filled, rabble-rousing rants about the subject in question, or at Chad itself.

Usually, if we reply, they quickly disappear or become very quiet. Brave people.

While it can give us at Chad Towers a much-needed giggle, there’s a serious issue bubbling here, and this latest development involving the tragedy of Amber Peat is a sobering one.

The community is still very raw over this terrible tragedy and people want justice. In some cases, they want blood.

It’s quite frightening the number of rumours about this poor girl and the circumstances surrounding her death that have spiralled out of control over social media in recent weeks.

As a newspaper, we’re permanently under scrutiny about what is legal to print, and what should never see the light of day.

But who is teaching the general public, the every-day social media users like yourself?

By calling someone a name, or ‘outing’ them as a paedophile or a drug dealer to millions of other web users if they have not been convicted of such, is an offence and could land you in serious trouble.

It’s one thing to say it to mates in the pub, but to post it online is serious stuff.

Recent figures show that prosecutions over internet trolling has soared by 800 per cent in the last decade.

This is certain to continue rising, and with high-profile cases like Amber Peat attracting such attention, it’s clear it will be taken seriously by the police.

Of course, legally we have to assume this teenager is innocent until proven guilty. Such is the law.

Until that day comes, we have to play it straight. Maybe others should think twice as well.