Self-styled Leola vigilante Justin Perry’s work brings to mind the mid-2000s reality show “To Catch a Predator.”
In it, host Chris Hansen and a TV crew would conduct stings with adults posing as children. Adults would travel to homes outfitted with hidden cameras.
The show ended in 2007 after one of the targets died by suicide. The target had been caught by an early vigilante group, Perverted-Justice, exchanging pictures with a person posing a teenage boy. (This past January, Perverted-Justice said it was ceasing decoy operations.)
Nowadays, with the ubiquity of smartphones and easy-to-use platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube, would-be Hansens don’t need sophisticated sting operations with costly equipment and crews.
Perry is far from the only person who goes after would-be child predators, but reliable numbers are hard to pin down.
South Central PA Child Predator Exposure has been active at least since June 2018 and relies on volunteers. It initially covered Pennsylvania, but is now nationwide, according to its website. Pennsylvania Predator Hunters is another group.
POPSquad – for Prey on Predators – operates out of Connecticut. It has a website, Facebook page and YouTube. One man hanged himself after being confronted.
Hunted and Confronted and Oklahoma Predator Prevention are a couple of many other groups.
Facebook is aware of vigilante groups and individuals -- such as Perry -- and has taken action.
In a statement, the company said: “We want people to use Facebook and our products to raise awareness about threats to public safety, including those who may pose harm to children. However, we do not want people to use Facebook to facilitate vigilante violence.”
Facebook has policies against threatening real-world harm and to protect people’s privacy if they’re being publicly shamed. And it removes content that violates those policies when reported.