Hundreds of Missouri residents have had their personal details shared online after the publication of a document that recorded reports made against those flouting lockdown measures.
It comes after St Louis County authorities called on people to report businesses and persons not following statewide lockdown measures, last month.
The names and addresses of almost 900 people were shared on Facebook to name-and-shame them after authorities had released the data following a media request under the state’s ‘Sunshine Law’, which requires authorities to release information submitted to public agencies.
“I’m not only worried about COVID, I’m worried about someone showing up at my door, showing up at my workplace or me getting fired for doing what is right,’ said a woman named Patricia, who had made a report, to KSDK news.
“When there is something that happens next time, I’m not going to feel safe or protected enough to call the local authorities.”
The complaints resulted in 29 businesses receiving court summons in April, leaving some concerned that they will face dismissal at work after reporting on rule breaking at their own workplace.
“We’re in a society where doing what’s right doesn’t always get rewarded,” added Patricia. “We have to be extra careful because we don’t have the strength to fight this.”
The Missouri resident told KSDK news that she had asked to be made anonymous, but that did not stop the complete publication of the documents.
Jared Totsch, who shared the personal details online, wrote on Facebook: “If they are worried about retaliation, they should have read the fine print which stated their tips would be open public record subject to a Sunshine request, and should not have submitted tips in that manner to begin with”.
“’I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behaviour in the future,” added Totsch, who claimed that those who had ‘snitched’ to local authorities caused job losses to others.
Those comments came despite St Louis County having confirmed the most cases and deaths of Covid-19 in Missouri.
Doug Moore, St Louis County executive’s director of communications, said that details could not be redacted from the document that was shared online.
“In this particular instance, our county counselor’s office consulted with the [attorney general]’s office on releasing the list of those who had filed complaints against county businesses,” Mr Moore told KSDK news.
He added: “Withholding information goes against what journalists push us to be – as transparent as possible.”
Totsch, who has also shared other unfounded claims on Facebook - including one post that called Covid-19 a 'media driven pandemic' - said that he had seen the documents shared on another Facebook group before posting about the ‘snitches’.
It comes as some Missouri businesses begin reopening on Monday.
Last month, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticised over the launch of a messaging service that encouraged New Yorkers to report on those breaking lockdown measures.
The app was shut down within hours, after it was inundated with memes and complaints about Mayor de Blasio.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies