The conflict in Ukraine and the downing of Flight MH17 is covered by 24/7 attention in media and online platforms. The amount of information coming through all channels in an incredible pace is overwhelming. Opinions and interpretations are formed and shared with the speed of light, presented under the cover of information and evidence. In all this, it becomes difficult to identify truth, facts and fiction.
Most concerning is the amount of unsubstantiated opinions which are presented as facts and evidence, and are carried by crowds of online users and mass media. If that would not be enough, there is a growing amount of fabricated hoaxes which are mixed in with information.
Here are some simple facts about evidence:
- Evidence that a suspect has the capability to commit a crime does not provide evidence that the suspect committed the crime.
- Evidence that a suspect has a possible motive to commit a crime does not provide evidence that the suspect committed the crime.
- Evidence that a suspect was at the scene of the crime at the moment of the crime does not provide evidence that the subject committed the crime, unless evidence is available the the subject and only the subject was at the scene of the crime at the moment of the crime.
- The above do however substantiate the suspicion of committing the crime and the need to continue to treat the suspect as suspect.
- Eyewitness testimony is not direct evidence, neither in confirming that the suspect committed the crime, nor in denying that the suspect committed the crime. Eyewitnesses can of course be influenced up to being paid to testify.Honest eyewitnesses can be influenced by their own believes, by information by others, by fear and most of all by time. The longer the time frame between the event and the testimony is, the higher the risk that the memories of the eyewitness have been influenced by external information and personal considerations of the eyewitness.
- Pictures and videos are not direct evidence. The first challenge is to confirm that these were made at the time and location of which they are stated to be made. The next challenge is to determine if these have not been manipulated. And thirdly, quality, angle, range, etc. of the picture or video can have influence on the information provided.