Anonymous social media disturbs community

Beginning in January 2020, some residents of Sayward, on northern Vancouver Island, became increasingly alarmed about racist and violent comments made by the holder(s) of an anonymous Facebook account operating in their community.

According to a report by the CBC, “Vedder McNutt” posted derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, and said that if someone steals a candy bar or a T-shirt, and resists arrest and gets shot, “whose fault is that? Who started that event?” Local residents began to fear that “Vedder McNutt” might be a police officer.

On June 16, 2020, “McNutt” posted this comment on Facebook, “People need to show police some god damn respect. I think some of us have gotten too soft, and should be more like this guy,” referring to a video “McNutt” posted showing a police officer violently apprehending a person for a minor infraction.

It turns out that “Vedder McNutt” was actually an RCMP officer stationed at the Sayward detachment, a veteran of 12 years on the force. Dustin Dahlman was suspended by the RCMP on July 1, 2020, after complaints by local residents. An investigation is pending.

Anonymous social media creates confusion and mistrust in QB

Facebook, for all its powers of social engagement, undeniably fosters discord and mistrust. It does so by offering the cover of anonymity and/or opportunity for outright deceit. On the grand scale, we have the example of Russia meddling in the U.S. election by setting up many fake Facebook sites and groups. In Sayward, an RCMP officer was hiding behind a pseudonym so he could spew what many consider to be racist and violent rhetoric.

Here in Qualicum Beach we have Facebook accounts operating in anonymity, purporting to represent citizens. One example is a Facebook account called “concerned citizens of qualicum beach.” Several people have commented to Second Opinion QB that it seemed to them that this Facebook account was associated with our publication, as the “concerned citizens” Facebook page referenced many of our published stories.

Second Opinion QB is not affiliated in any way with the Facebook account called “concerned citizens of qualicum beach.”

Despite our efforts, we have been unable to confirm the identity of the person or persons behind this Facebook account. No one could say who is receiving emails on behalf of this anonymous FB account. There is no list of members or officers on the FB page, and no website or any other source of information appears to exist to indicate who is behind this FB account.

Second Opinion QB is not affiliated in any way with the Facebook account called “concerned citizens of qualicum beach.”

We have no means to prohibit others from reposting or reprinting material published by Second Opinion QB. We can only ask, and we do expect, that any responsible social media users who re-post content published elsewhere do so with a clear identification of the source and differentiation between themselves and the sources of content they are choosing to use for their purposes.

We wonder though, why would “concerned citizens” keep their identity secret? Often, FB account holders hide behind anonymity so they can engage in abusive language or personal attacks as “Vedder McNutt” did. Other fake Facebook accounts are established to mislead the public, as Russia has done and apparently is still doing. Sometimes anonymous Facebook accounts are created to allow cowards to hurl accusations, usually without substance or merit, comments they would not otherwise utter in public.

Qualicum Beach needs its citizen advocates to come out of the shadows.

Why Second Opinion QB is not affiliated with social media

While we recognize the value of social media for some purposes, Second Opinion QB does not use Facebook or any other social media. We made a decision at the outset not to use social media because it is too often used as a platform for hostility and discord, especially in regards to civic engagement.