Cedar Valley Mugshots Facebook Page stirs controversy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Valley Mugshots Facebook Page: Protected under first amendment or cyberbullying?

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BLACK HAWK COUNTY (KWWL) -

It's a Facebook page that highlights mug shots of alleged criminals, and it has a lot of people talking.

People who have researched cyberbullying believe the "Cedar Valley Mugshots" Facebook page opens up a public venue for bullying.

"There's a lot of positive ways that Facebook has brought us all together, but it also has created a venue for people to spread very damaging messages about others in a very public venue," said Annette Lynch, director at the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa.

Lynch has studied the impact cyberbullying has on people and believes everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

"If you begin to have kind of bullying happening on this site, other people come in and sort of follow it up, and you can kind of feel that on the web site," she said.

"Once someone made a comment, somebody else made a comment and that momentum is very hard to slow down once the site starts going in that direction," Lynch added.

While those who have studied cyberbullying believe the comments on the "Cedar Valley Mugshots" Facebook page are damaging, the Waterloo Police Department sees it as a good example of people exercising their first amendment rights.

"That's open government at their finest," said Director of Safety Services for the City of Waterloo Dan Trelka.

"People are obtaining these mugshots because they are open record, open policy, and they're just utilizing them to put them on a web site. And that's also a good example of their first amendment rights," Trelka added.

An administrator for the "Cedar Valley Mugshots" Facebook page did not want to be identified because he has received death threats.

But he sent the following message to KWWL Reporter Shelley Russell:

"Thank you for your interest in our page! We are a group of concerned individuals that started a public awareness page shortly after the Evansdale girls came up missing last summer.

"We wanted a page with a broad scope that not only shows crimes like pedophiles and murder, but for lesser crimes that get pled down and reoffended. We want people to see who is committing crimes in their neighborhood, and maybe even act as a deterent.

"Our 'like' base has generated numerous tips that have led to arrests for various crimes, including wanted sexoffenders. Our following on Facebook has lead to the generous donating drive for a Waterloo individual who was assaulted in his home and had possessions stolen from him.

"We receive much positive feedback from the observers of this page (not everybody comments on our page), and even though we receive negative comments and messaging, most are for the positive and the community generally supports us.

"We try to moderate bad comments on CVM, which is getting hard to do because for some reason agitation from a certain group has been stepped up to make our page look bad.

"We would love to do an on camera interview, but in addition to our regular threats by criminals posted on our site, a person named [name withheld] and some criminals that have been exposed on CVM have started sending us death threats."

Meanwhile, spokesmen for both Cedar Falls and Waterloo Police Departments said they were not aware of any threats made as a result of the "Cedar Valley Mugshots" Facebook page.

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