Before the night of June 15, Nathan Kotylak was known as a star high school athlete from a Vancouver, B.C., suburb, a 17-year-old Olympic hopeful on the Canadian junior men's water polo team.
But that day the Boston Bruins clinched hockey's Stanley Cup in game seven over the Vancouver Canucks, and upset fans rioted on the streets of Vancouver.
Kotylak was identified in a Web photo as one of the rioters, and in the backlash that ensued he and his family received threats and were harassed to the point they had to flee their Maple Ridge home.
Welcome to vigilante justice, social-media style.
A number of websites popped up after the riot, encouraging “crowdsourcing” viewers to identify participants in photos and videos, not only so they could be reported to police, but so they could be publicly shamed, harassed and humiliated.
The sites include photos and videos of people breaking windows, looting luxury stores and, in Kotylak's case, trying but apparently failing to set a police car on fire. Visitors to the sites are urged to name names, post phone numbers and addresses, and in some instances, they make threats or use racist or homophobic language about those identified.
Kotylak's name, address, cellphone number, and his father's name and office number were posted on various sites, including Facebook.
He and his family received threatening and harassing phone calls and messages. He was suspended from the national water polo team and missed his high school graduation ceremonies after the family went into hiding. His father, a surgeon, was forced to temporarily close his medical office.
All before Kotylak was charged with a crime in juvenile court.
In this country, it is the custom of the news media to withhold the identity of minors involved in all but the most serious crimes. In Canada, the Youth Criminal Justice Act makes it flat-out illegal for the media to identify a minor suspected of a crime.
A blog devoted to publicly shaming each rioter created a post devoted to Kotylak's crime that drew more than 800 comments. The blog, “publicshamingeternus,” is maintained by “Captain Vancouver,” who otherwise believes it's his right not to be identified.
Kotylak, who has a scholarship to the University of Calgary, said that before June 15, the results of a Google search on his name would yield results about his awards and honors.
Google him now and there are pages after pages of search results about his part in the riot. They include Facebook pages titled, “Nathan Kotylak go to jail, Do not Pass Go” and “100,000 strong to ban Nathan Kotylak from the Canada Olympic team.”
We may never know when and if Kotylak is charged with a crime or convicted, as Canadian law will continue to protect his identity as a minor.
No matter, says his attorney, Bart Findlay. Kotylak already has been judged in the court of Facebook.