Philadelphia Community Misidentifies Killer On Facebook

Well-meaning vigilantes misidentified a Philadelphia serial killer within a Facebook group, and local police had to declare the man's innocence after a small riot at his house.

Well-meaning vigilantes circulated postings on Facebook misidentifying a serial killer in Philadelphia.

Local police became aware of the misinformation after the community rallied around the wrong individual’s house last night, calling him the “Kensington strangler.”

The misidentified man fled his home during last night’s confrontation, and asked the local police for help, ABC News said.

Now let’s stop right here and apologize to this individual. We’re not posting his identifying information here, but sourcing requires us to link to an article that includes his name. That’s not as bad as sharing his photo and address on Facebook, but still, multiple wrongs don’t make a right.

So we hope that the correct information has by now reached all 8,000 members of the Facebook group dedicated to catching the strangler. The incorrect photo got pulled from the group after Philadelphia police said the man wasn’t a suspect in the case.

The local police also held a press conference this morning clarifying his innocence. This came after a DNA test confirmed that he isn’t a suspect. He actually volunteered for it after fearing for his safety.

We applaud what Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Ray Evers said to ABC:

Everybody has to be very leery of photos of a wanted person on Facebook. Because of social networking and how big this fan page is growing … if somebody shared it with their friends, the multiplier effect … it’s pretty damning…. You can put any photo out on Facebook. The only one that should be giving out a photo is the police.

What does this case tell us about the state of affairs on Facebook? Should the social network create rules about how crime can be policed using the site?