A Campbell River man is suing the head of a controversial vigilante justice group, Surrey Creep Catchers, for defamation, after he was wrongfully accused of being a pedophile in social media posts.
Sean Smith, a 48-year-old father, husband and social media educator, posted a video criticizing Creep Catchers’ practices on Dec. 7, 2016 and within hours, faced a barrage of abusive comments suggesting he was a pedophile.
Ryan LaForge, the president of Surrey Creep Catchers, called Smith a “pedo” and suggested he would be revealed as a child sexual predator following a sting operation, according to the statement of claim filed on Thursday.
On Dec. 8, a photo of Smith was posted on the Surrey Creep Catcher Facebook page superimposed with the words: “What’s a pedo even look like? Oh yeah, this guy,” and “I love the smell … of kids in the morning.”
The comments under the posts label Smith a “pedophile” “goof” and “skinner”, the latter two being prison slang for sexual predators.
Smith said he’s faced a steady stream of death threats from supporters of Surrey Creep Catchers and some have even gone after his family. One person sent messages to his wife saying “you’re married to a pedophile.”
Smith said the online attacks against him show that anyone who is critical of the group will face bullying, intimidation and harassment.
Smith is suing LaForge and 10 unnamed people who made defamatory statements.
LaForge posted an apology to Smith but has since deleted it. The photo of Smith has not been taken down and is clearly visible on the group’s Facebook page, which has 17,000 followers.
Creep Catchers, which has chapters all over the country, tries to trap sexual predators by posing as underage girls and boys and then posting videos of the confrontation online.
However, members of the group have wrongfully accused people and broadcast videos of people who later killed themselves. Police have advised against this type of vigilante justice and said it can actually get in the way of their investigations.
“What we’re looking at is a group of people who have gathered suspect evidence, with no training, no education, no qualifications in investigative technique or evidence gathering, a tenuous grasp of the Canadian laws and Criminal Code, openly accusing individuals who they’ve trapped,” Smith said. “It’s online bullying, cyber bullying, defamatory content, accusing people of things that are not based on any solid evidence.”
Smith, who is a social media consultant and does presentations at schools under the name Social Media Guy, said the false allegations against him have damaged his reputation and his business. He is seeking damages and a public retraction.
Smith said he hopes his court case will set a precedent that people who are victims of cyber bullying have legal recourse.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. LaForge has not filed a statement of defence and has not yet responded to requests for comment.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.