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Updated: 20th September 2018 14:11

Prof not surprised after man with same name as accused threatened in Humboldt Broncos bus crash case

Right after long-awaited charges were laid in the Humboldt Broncos crash against a semi driver from Calgary, one man with the same name faced an onslaught of hateful messages on social media.

Man named Jaskirat Sidhu, which is the same as accused in Broncos crash, received hateful messages online

Professor Alec Couros did his own social media search for the name of the man charged in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, and found hundreds who bear the same name. (CBC)

Right after long-awaited charges were laid in the Humboldt Broncos crash against a semi driver from Calgary, one man with the same name faced an onslaught of hateful messages on social media.

After doing a cursory search on Facebook, Alec Couros found hundreds of people listed under the same name as Jaskirat Sidhu, who is charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 of dangerous driving causing injury in the collision.

It's not the first time Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina, has seen a case like this. For example, a man misidentified as having involvement in the Boston bombing was bombarded with calls, and his family harassed.

The number of people on Twitter and Facebook makes it a lot easier to contact and find out more about people from across the world, but it comes with risks when people are not fully informed, Couros said.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu is the full name of the man accused in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (The Canadian Press)

"People of course react very quickly when they're emotional, when they want to say something online and they may not do their research. And that's unfortunately very common but very dangerous in cases like this," he said.

In the Humboldt Broncos case, despite a photo clearly identifying the accused, another man who looks completely different made an open plea on Facebook for people to stop sending him hateful messages.

But harassment can go far beyond messages into physical threats, Couros said.

This mob mentality...can be very dangerous.- Prof. Alec Couros

"People can do much more damaging or even physically damaging things where they can actually find the person's information, where they live and so this mob mentality although it plays out online in certain ways can be very dangerous," he said.

How to protect yourself

Couros said he recommends that his students put their identity out there to thwart potential misidentifications online.

On the other hand, he said he doesn't want people to contribute to the problem.

"When you see something online that infuriates you, make sure that you have your research," he said.

The Humboldt Broncos situation is an "extreme example" of how online comments and messages can be hurtful, Couros said.

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