The head of a vigilante group that names and shames alleged pedophiles is vowing to defy an order to take down online pictures and videos that were captured during its stings.
B.C.’s privacy watchdog has ordered the Surrey Creep Catchers to remove the material posted online related to two men, after the pair made separate complaints to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC).
LISTEN: Surrey Creep Catchers ordered to remove pictures and video from the internet
The group has been given 30 days to comply, but Surrey Creep Catchers president Ryan Laforge said that he has no plans to follow through.
“No, the whole purpose of what we do is to protect children from these guys,” said Laforge.
“And then the first sight of some authority figure trying to tell me that children’s lives don’t matter anymore, these goofs, these pedophiles, these perverts that see fit to meet children and whatever, get to have everything taken away? That defeats the whole purpose of what we’re doing.”
The order comes after a report from the OIPC found the vigilante group’s tactics, including misrepresenting itself in online communications and live streaming stings without consent, violate B.C.’s Personal Information and Protection Act.
“Under our act you must either have consent to collect personal information or you must have other authority to collect it without consent,” said Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Drew McArthur.
“That authority did not exist for Surrey Creep Catchers. And the way the consent was collected here was through misleading and deceptive practices with nullified consent if any was given.”
In its findings, the OIPC rejected an argument by the Creep Catchers that their work qualifies as journalism, and hence was immune from the privacy act.
In one case, the report found the complainant had responded to an advertisement in the “Strictly Platonic” section of Craigslist.
The Creep Catchers decoy identified themselves as a 15-year-old girl, who suggested that the pair meet in a public place to “chill.”
In the second case, a man with cognitive impairment had posted an online ad looking to meet a woman his own age. The Creep Catchers responded posing as a 20-year-old woman, who later said she had a 14-year-old friend and suggested they meet in a public place.
When the Creep Catchers confronted him with livestreaming cameras, the complainant fled. He was pursued by the group, and apparently struck by a motor vehicle.
“During the broadcast, and in later social media posts, members of the [Creep Catchers] and others suggested that the Complainant had inappropriately attempted to lure and meet with a minor for sexual purposes,” states the report.
The report found chat logs relating to the first complainant that were posted online included personal information including his name, age, telephone number, personal email address, home city, occupation, hobbies, and physical description.
“The techniques the Surrey Creep Catchers were using were inappropriate for an organization to collect personal information. And the disclosure was for purposes other than what they stated. Essentially they were trying to name and shame the individuals,” said McArthur.
The OIPC said that if the Surrey Creep Catchers fail to remove and destroy any videos, pictures, or comments from websites or social media related to the two complainants they could face fines or police action.
Laforge is also facing charges of assault and uttering threats in relation to two separate stings earlier this year, and is also being sued for defamation.
But Laforge said the threat of charges or lawsuits won’t change his mind.
“I don’t care, you can go to the authorities, you can take it to the courts, you can charge me, you can sue me, you can put me in… I don’t care, it’s not going down.”