Jul 4, 2012

[Social Media] Sex, Lies and the Internet

This is a Geeky Guide Public Service Announcement
(Because I like being ironic)

This fellow is Robert Tarroza Stewart (who may also be this Robert Tarroza Stewart or this Robby Tarroza). I do not know him from Adam but through the wonders of social media I came across his profile in the weirdest way this morning. I still wish I hadn't - my life would be so much better for it. But everything happens for a reason and so I'm here today to tell you a little about his involvement in an incident this morning and why you ought to be wary.

You know how annoying it is when one of your Facebook contacts is tagged in some image that isn't even a photo of them? Yeah, it was one of those cases. But what surprised me was that the image was some supposed "Notice the Public" posted from Mr. Stewart's Facebook account. And image was just...wrong. Wrong probably isn't a sufficiently strong enough term for it but words fail me right now.

You see, the "posters" were indicating that a certain person (from this point on we shall refer to him as The Victim) supposedly had HIV and was intentionally spreading it to other people. Pretty strong accusation, right?

For the record, redacted versions of the two posters can be found after the cut:

Now the moment I saw the images, I knew they were fraudulent for a number of reasons.

First, disclosing the HIV / AIDS test results of another person (assuming these posters are based on actual test results that is) is illegal under Article VI, Section 32 of RA 8504 (Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998). Violation of Section 32 is punishable by at least 6 months to 4 years imprisonment plus additional fines and sanctions.

Second, the AIDS Society of the Philippines is a respectable HIV / AIDS support organization and would NEVER violate someone's right to privacy in this matter as a matter of principle (beyond the fact this action is also illegal).

Third, the poster included a misspelling of the word promiscuous as "permiscuous". Yes, that counts!

Since the image involved a mutual friend being tagged, this gave me the option to comment on the post even though Mr. Stewart isn't a Facebook contact for me and so I mentioned this being illegal and I even tagged the Facebook Page of the AIDS Society of the Philippines to alert them to the matter. In the new few minutes more folks started complaining this was wrong, cited RA 8504 and started the call to have these images reported to Facebook.

At first I wanted to give Mr. Stewart the benefit of the doubt - maybe he just wanted to help out his friend by posting these images and tagging all his friends in them to "spread the word" or something. But then when all comments stating that the poster was illegal and attempts to discuss RA 8504 or contacting the AIDS Society of the Philippines were deleted, then it was clear to me that someone was up to no good. And that person would be whoever was controlling Mr. Stewart's Facebook profile at the time.

And yes, I will not immediately claim he was the one who perpetrated these acts or created the images since all evidence at this point is strictly circumstantial. Thank you years of police procedural dramas!

Back on point, I decided to forward copies of the original images to the Facebook Page of the AIDS Society of the Philippine so they could look into this incident and possibly file appropriate charges for defamation of their organization or falsely representing them. In addition, I tried to track down The Victim on Facebook, pretty much located his profile and sent him a message recommending that he clear things up with Mr. Stewart with regard to why those images were posted to his Facebook profile. I know it was none of my business but it was a horrible thing being done and the The Victim deserved to know about it so he could face his accuser.

It does not matter whether or not any of the individuals involved have HIV / AIDS or not. What is important here is that each person is entitled to full confidentiality regarding their HIV / AIDS status under RA 8504 and that should be universally respected. No one deserved to have their name slandered over social media in that manner and such hate speech ought to stop. And of course being diagnosed with HIV / AIDS is not a death sentence and there have been many advances in modern medicine to help people living with HIV live good lives provided they are diagnosed early enough.

In the end, the two images were removed from Mr. Stewart's account without any explanation as to why the were posted. So our lessons for today are (1) do not immediately believe anything you read or see on social media without trying to verify your facts first, (2) respect the rights of people living with HIV (stop saying silly things like HIV+!), (3) if you're concerned about the spread of HIV / AIDS, we don't need a viral campaign to blacklist people living with HIV - instead USE A CONDOM and for Robert Tarroza Stewart, (4) exercise more caution and responsibility over what you post on your Facebook profile (or for whoever has access to your profile).

Fellow geeks, you have been informed.
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  1. Damn, that's such a... I don't even know what adjective to use for the situation. :/

  2. Lanchie abanco05 July, 2012 09:16

    The age old rule applies: Wrong spelling... WRONG!

  3. Words fail me as well. But at least the damage was minimized and the affected parties were informed of the issue and are taking action as they deem appropriate.

  4. Apparently, somebody else was able to save it and it is still circulating now.

  5. They are full of insecurities in life!!

  6. Thanks for dropping by - very appreciated. =)

  7. I stopped reading (and believing) at 'permiscuos'. LOL. It was a good thing to do this, GG. Mr. Stewart (or whoever he is) should have done a bit more research.

  8. I hope it puts an end to all this madness