Why is it important that the truth always wins? And that we rigorously fact-check accusations before jumping to conclusions?

When I was at university my house-mate was accused of a crime he didn't commit, and couldn't have committed. It was devestating.

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He (let's call him Dan) had broken his collarbone badly a few days before. Had an operation, a metal screw put through it, and was recovering at home in a lot of pain.

One morning we then get a call from a teammate from our football team. "Why are the police looking for Dan?"
We obviously had no idea. So I took him down to the police station to ask what was going on. They told him to go away and they'd call him if they wanted him. An hour after we got back to the flat, they rang us and called us in again.

We went in, and he was arrested for assault
A man was assaulted in the middle of town in the early hours of the morning. The victim then walked in to the police station some hours later with a photo of Dan and his name and said 'this guy beat me up'.
Dan was arrested and released on bail. He had his arm in a sling from the broken collar-bone. Gossip spread. Everyone put two-and-two together and decided he was guilty. Rumours went around everywhere. Dan had been assaulting people in the city!

This was just before our finals.
It took weeks to get to the truth. I was a witness to show that Dan was at the flat with me and couldn't possibly have committed the alleged assault - but nobody cared about that. He was guilty in their eyes. Insulted, shunned, mocked constantly. So what had happened?
The bloke was beaten up. The attacker & a friend, then ran off towards a halls of residence.

The victim then went on Facebook and searched for that halls of residence, and looked at the photos of people who showed up.

He wrongly picked our teammate as the attacker's friend.
He then looked through all of his facebook photos until seeing our football team photo and wrongly picked out Dan as the attacker.

He printed out Dan's name and profile picture, and took it to the police station. That's when the saga began.
Dan couldn't have done it. He had an alibi and was incapacitated at the time. Our teammate they thought was the attacker's friend was 300 miles away at the time of the attack too.

Did this stop people jumping to the conclusion he was guilty? Did it f**k.
When he should have been preparing for his final exams, he was trying to prove himself innocent of an assault he couldn't possibly have committed, while being shunned and insulted by almost everyone in our year-group. It was absolutely disgusting. The truth didn't matter.
After many months and various statements (including a police officer asking me what Facebook was), they finally released him without charge.

Everyone in the year-group decided he was let off 'on a technicality', rather than being let off for being innocent. It was devastating.
So forgive me for not taking the word of one anonymous source as gospel, ever.

Do not draw premature conclusions, because lives are destroyed when you do.

Don't become part of the mob, or you're as bad as the person making the false accusation in the first place.
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