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Antisocial media: Online idiocy has consequences

March 25. 2017 6:54PM

The presence of a Lucky Flour sack in a Littleton antique shop led to a social media controversy, the store's closure and, ultimately, a lawsuit. (FACEBOOK)

Why is it that when some people log on to social media, their brains log out?

A Littleton antiques shop owner says she was forced out of business by a customer's Facebook post about a flour sack with a swastika in the logo.

Chic & Unique boutique owner Nicole Guida says she explained to Katherine Ferrier that the symbol predated the rise of Nazi Germany, but Ferrier protested online anyway, driving away customers and forcing Guida to temporarily close her doors. The shop closed for good earlier this month.

Ferrier's post was ignorant and foolish, but even ignorant opinions are protected by the First Amendment. The law can hold people accountable for false statements, not false outrage.

The incident shows how easily social media can spark a firestorm, and how innocent people can be hurt by a groundless protest.

In Bedford, an innocuous tweet from one of our sports reporters set off an avalanche of hateful responses from students.

Reporter Roger Brown, covering the varsity basketball semifinals mentioned that Bedford's student section would have to "raise its game" in the finals to match the intensity of the semifinal's crowd.

The online invective that ensued was shocking. School Superintendent Chip McGee apologized for the inappropriate behavior, and school officials spoke with several of the students about sportsmanship and civil discourse.

People should hold themselves to the same standards of decency on Facebook, Twitter, and in comment sections as they would in the public square. Some online trolls would be just as detestable in person, but many are using internet muscles to pick a fight from a distance.

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