AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – A Facebook post shared thousands of times, for the wrong reason, shamed an innocent local special needs man, illustrating the dangerous power of social media.
After hundreds and hundreds of shares and reposts, the Augusta man’s family is speaking out in his defense.
WJBF-TV spoke with his family and they shared their heartbreak after seeing the negative comments on the post.
A family member tells WJBF-TV she was told of the original post, through a private message, and believed it would just die down. Yet, she says after some alarming comments her family feared for their relative’s safety.
The post shared thousands of times claimed the man holding the cell phone was taking a video of a teenager at a popular miniature golf hangout in Augusta, Ga. The teenage girl who thought she was being recorded, put the post on Facebook.
“People want to make people aware, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Paula Toole, a family member told WJBF-TV.
The man in the picture is Joey. Paula, his cousin, says she saw the post and recognized it was Joey. She says it didn’t seem like anything at the time so she let it go.
“Of course no one knew that this was my cousin and that he was harmless. So I felt like, ‘well Joey doesn’t have social media. He can’t speak for himself.’ So what do you do?” Toole said.
Toole says once the comments under the picture became threatening to her special needs cousin she couldn’t keep quiet anymore.
“People that don’t know him would not know that he has to hold the phone close because he is half blind.” Toole said.
Local attorney and partner of Hull Barrett Attorneys, David Hudson says he sees many cases like this. Social media outlets make it easy for information, right or wrong, to spread like wildfire.
“The commentary that went with her posting–it could cause people to interpret false facts, not just an opinions, but a false fact about this man,” Hudson said.
The original post has since been removed by Facebook. A new post shared by his family explaining the misunderstanding has now replaced it. His family grateful it has also been shared thousands of times.
“But there’s a lesson here for young people. The cell phone, the internet and websites are powerful weapons of communication and you need to be careful what you post regarding yourself and regarding other people.” Hudson said.
Toole, says she and her family forgive the teenager for the original post. Since the new post was shared, Toole says she has been overwhelmed by the wonderful messages she’s received supporting Joey.
A “Hugs for Joey” Facebook page has been created to send him love and support.
WJBF-TV tried to track down the teenage girl who created the post to get her input, but we were unsuccessful.
Since the story aired, Paula Toole says the teen and her family have apologized.
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