One of the most fearful specters is citizens taking the law into their own hands. In vigilantism, the mindset is 1.) There person is guilty regardless of the truth. 2.) Retribution is total and complete. 3.) The wrongfully accused has no recourse.. 4.) Vigilante groups operated in the shadows and with impunity.
The advent of the internet has brought a number of blessings and an equal number of curses. One of the more popular blessings is internet chat rooms. In chat rooms people can meet people from all over the world and develop friendships. To teen agers, chat rooms give them a chance to vent, converse, and meet others.
One of the curses is the child predator - adults who prey on children to feed their own sexual deviancies.
Ferreting out child predators is the work of law enforcement - period. But, a group of citizens formed a vigilante group called Pervert-Justice..com.
They send their posses into teenage chat rooms and try to entice an adult into having "sex" talk. Pervert-Justice then starts keeping a log of the conversation and works the adult until he/she gives a telephone number. They then have a teenage sounding person call the telephone number and speak with the person in question. The person is then listed on the Pervert-Justice site along with a copy of the chats logs.
Initially this sounds well intended, but the fact of the matter it is vigilantism.
I did an undercover investigation and here is what I found.
They do not have the checks and balances to insure they have the right person at all. It is too easy to set someone up - simply create an screen name of someone you don"t like, got into the chat rooms and engage is sexual talk with a youngster, and give them your telephone number. The teenage sound person will call you. You tell them your name is actually the name of your victim, and it all gets posted on the Perverted-Justice web site. I went through the Perverted Justice web site, and they have absolutely no procedure or a protocol on what to do if a person is wrongfully accused. A wrongfully accused person has absolutely NO recourse.
In their postings of the logs, they also add side comments - this indicates that the posted logs are being edited. During my undercover investigation, one log had a side comment that the PJ persona had worked on this one guy for several hours - but the log they had posted could only account for about a 20 minute conversation. PJ claims their side comments are necessary, but, one has to wonder what other editing might have occurred in the process.
An accusation of being a child predator is very serious in the US, and law enforcement has adopted a policy of guilty until (and maybe never) proven innocent. If a person is wrongfully accused on the PJ site, the damage is done forever, and that person"s life is completely destroyed. The PJ site makes no statements about public retractions or assuming any responsibility in the case of wrongful actions on their part.
They do have the right of reply - but if you are wrongfully accused, any attempt to clear your name is in vain. You will simply be gaffed off as being in denial because the attitude guilty.
During my investigation, and you will see some of my old posts (Rabbi Michael Berglin), I advocated a more moderate approach rather than their persona working an on-line chat until he/she slips and says something sexual. That was quickly rebuffed by the site owner - which leads back to the question is this entrapment. It is true that W.C. Field said "You can"t cheat an honest man", but a persona that keeps pushing a person to talk sexually is boarder line entrapment.
I also suggested that when the persona makes contact with a predator, and the sexual talk begins, that the matter be turned over to law enforcement. That was rebuffed very quickly as PJ wants to do things their way, and only their way.
I had written an article on measures a parent can take to protect their child while they are on-line. PJ would not even publish my suggestions - protecting children is not the agenda it seems. I got the impression that they only wanted blood.
I received two bits of correspondence from the site owner in terms that were childish and very threatening for my moderate stance.
Chatmag.com is quoted as saying: "The owner of Perverted-Justice also operates Angrygerman.com A look at his home page clearly demonstrates this person is not an Internet Professional, but a person seeking notoriety. The site is chock full of ranting, profanities, and sexual innuendo."
FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi says of the Perverted Justice sting operations: "the stings didn't help law enforcement because evidence wasn't collected in a legal way. Other law enforcement officials have said the "stings" could compromise real investigations". Typically, if Pervert-Justice decides to set up a sting operation and get what they believe is hard evidence, they will invite the news media when PJ decides to make a visit to the alleged predator.
There are child predators out there in cyber space. There are those who seek to harm children. The protection of your child must start at home and not left to people like Pervert-Justice.
There are legal procedures for conducting investigations that law enforcement is trained in. Perverted-Justice is not properly trained, nor is their members affiliated with any law enforcement agency or child advocacy group. Perverted-Justice is a vigilante group that is headed up by a person who also identifies himself as an angry man.
How can truth come out when the agenda, and actions, are emotionally induced?