A Facebook page responsible for claiming child abuse by a man in Louisiana has been shut down as of this morning.
The page, whose title included the man's name, was started sometime Sunday afternoon, and had nearly 7,000 likes by midnight last night. The administrators of the page posted graphic photos alleging child abuse against a minor, and published the name, photo, vehicle description, and license plate number of the man they claim was behind the alleged abuse.
The situation quickly turned dangerous yesterday, as thousands flocked to the page, with no actual confirmed information. A woman claiming to be the aunt of the victim incited anger amongst some readers, who then lashed out, threatening the life of the man who was the target of the allegations, while some accused the page of being a hoax. Even Snopes.com, the online authority for debunking Internet-based hoaxes, classified the situation as "Undetermined." As concern turned to fear for the man's safety, Facebook received hundreds of reports about the page, which was eventually deleted sometime after 1 a.m. this morning.
Adding insult to injury, those behind the hysteria even provided the name of the reporting law enforcement agency that was allegedly investigating the abuse claims. Concerned citizens from around the country then began contacting the small-town Walker, Louisiana, Police Department, and various assertions were then made via the Internet about whether or not the situation was a valid abuse claim. Some posted their versions of "conversations" with law enforcement officials, and a few even reached out to us to tell them their stories. This reporter attempted to reach the Walker PD and the Louisiana State Police for comment multiple times yesterday, and received a response at approximately 8 p.m. last evening.
The response from the local police, however, seemed to create more confusion for those already concerned about the images. Based on photos alone, there is/was a child who appears to have been beaten, and a man whose name and image were being attributed to the allegations. Furthermore, officials were unable to acknowledge whether or not the abuse was real, whether or not charges were pending, and even if they were or were not investigating the matter. This reporter received over 75 messages from concerned readers who were asking for assistance or resolution to the matter, and were also hearing from those who know the man at the center of the allegations.
Friends of the man (whose name we have not released) say they are "concerned" for their friend, and assert he is not the type of person to abuse a child. A woman named Dawn told this reporter this morning that his Facebook account has been deactivated, and his friends have not heard from him, but hope that he is quietly holed up with friends and family. Although one of the administrators of the Facebook page asserted late last evening that the man was allegedly "in jail," Vinelink shows no offender or arrest report matching his name.
That leaves us with the $64,000 question: was this a hoax or not? Some say "yes", others say "no". Throughout the course of our reporting yesterday, The Examiner received documentation from several readers alleging that the mother of the child in question may actually have outstanding warrants herself, and at least one (or more) may be for suspected child abuse. At this time, however, we are unable to confirm whether or not these warrants actually belong to the mother of this particular child, as the identity of this child is still in question. Some claim the mother -- or aunt -- of this child may have fabricated the entire situation for attention or revenge; and although these two women seemed to have plenty of time yesterday to post hateful messages seeking support from complete strangers, neither the mother nor the aunt took time to respond to repeated requests for comment from our team to clear up the matter once and for all.
In the grand scheme of things, whether or not the abuse is real is truly up to the police and/or CPS to determine. In the meantime, however, those behind the page are now publicly accused of slander, libel, false allegations, and possibly false reporting, as people continue to demand answers. While the police response offers little to no confirmation as to the validity of this situation, thousands continue to seek closure in this matter, as many are still concerned about the child whose face was plastered all over the Internet, as an alleged victim of abuse.
The Examiner will continue to follow this story if new developments occur, and reminds those involved that this platform is available if anyone wishes to clarify their role in this situation, including the man who has been the target of the abuse allegations.