A Facebook page dedicated to photographing and mocking homeless people in Calgary was removed from the Internet on Wednesday amid public backlash and a possible police investigation.
The page, entitled "Creature Sightings" disappeared from Facebook at about 10:30 a.m., after it was outed in overnight news reports, which detailed its purpose: Allowing its members to belittle Calgary's homeless community. It does appear that a new, private group may have since been created.
CBC News reported that Calgary police were investigating the page and had not ruled out laying charges.
While the page itself appears to have been taken down, a Facebook page opposing the practice of "creature sighting" remains up. "Wow! Unbelievable the number of heartless people out there! Their parents must be hanging their heads in shame!" one woman said about the offensive Facebook page.
Before it was removed, the "Creature Sightings" site had about 200 members several of which were actively posting photographs of homeless people spotted around the city, and even recording the occasional video.
One video posted to the page showed two young men strutting down a public hallway in search of homeless people. "This is creature hunting at its finest right here," one boy says, while wearing a hat and jacket his parents almost surely purchased for him.
After spotting a man who appears homeless, the pair antagonizes him until he flees and then pursues him while offering him money in exchange for an interview.
The incident was reminiscent of an incident that occurred in Vancouver recently, in which a young man was recorded offering two homeless people money in exchange for the opportunity to kick them in the genitals.
In both cases, outrage was swift and severe.
Tim Richer, the president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said the website was degrading and offensive to an already-struggling community.
“It just adds degradation on top of the already horrible circumstances of being homeless in Calgary or any other city," Richer told Yahoo Canada News.
"Now you've got somebody taking pictures of you and mocking you on the Internet. It is degrading and offensive."
Richer says that Calgary has about 3,500 homeless people at any given time. Between 1992 and 2008, it had the fastest-growing homeless population in the country. Since then, the city has launched a homeless strategy that has had some success.
The number of comments critical of Facebook page had increased in the days before it was removed, and some users had taken to posting photographs of the "creature hunters" themselves as a form of protest against the site.
It was not clear whether Facebook had removed the site for breaching its community standards policy against bullying, or whether site moderators had removed the site amid increased scrutiny and possible charges.
In either case, good riddance.
Photos via Facebook, CBC News
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