IT'S a well established fact that biases cloud our judgment but nowhere is this more apparent than on social media.

Here's an odd one: a woman posted on Facebook recently that she had seen a group of around 30 children being removed from their homes on a street in Govanhill by police and social workers. She described what she had seen as "a massive flat raid... more than 30 foreign children removed from a flat and brought into the street in their pants and vests, some with blood on them, no older than seven years of age."

The post ended, "Child trafficking - absolutely disgusting."

Local residents were similarly disgusted and expressed their outrage quite vociferously in the comments sections online.

It's the sort of sight that would surely give pause, and prompt questions. More than two dozen children in the street with police and Glasgow City Council staff in a highly populated area and no one else seems to have seen this happen?

I contacted the council and was told the social work department had no knowledge of such a large removal of children.

Community police managed to track down the woman who wrote the post and clarified what she had seen. She had, from a distance, seen a large group of children in the street accompanied by two men in high-vis vests.


Jon Flanagan battered a woman, he didn't 'make a mistake'

That's the sort of sight I would see and assume a school trip or perhaps the local Big Noise orchestra travelling from one location to another. This lady, who said she doesn't live in the community, saw a large group of children in Govanhill and assumed they were both "foreign" and "trafficked" and a proportion of people were ready to unquestioningly accept that.

Why? Because of a bias - probably without conscious malice - developed from reading about issues in Govanhill online, mainly based on rumours themselves, and believing them.

Just last year a broadsheet newspaper added fuel to the fire by reporting very specific concerns about children from one demographic group in the area as if they were fact, despite police finding no evidence of the claims. It's easy for rumours to get out of hand and very easy for them to begin to cause damage.

Imagine knowing that when your children gather in the street, people might assume they have been sold for sex purely based on an assumption about their ethnicity.

Another type of bias of online interactions is that which sees people unable to focus on the actual, serious, issue at hand because they're too focused on irrelevant issues.

A year ago I wrote about Rangers Football Club's latest signing, Jon Flanagan. I wasn't critical of Rangers. I was critical of my sports writer colleagues for dancing around the issue of Mr Flanagan's crime, calling it, for example, "an early morning scrap" rather than what it was, a brutal assault on his girlfriend.

I then broadened out the point to say that this failure to confront this issue head on could apply to any number of sportsmen who are convicted of domestic abuse.

The issue, which I explained, is that domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that women - and men - fear speaking out about. They fear not being believed, they fear being judged, they fear the crime being minimised.

If we pretend that a serious domestic assault is nothing but "issues in [a sportsman's] personal life" or that, because they have a talent with a football or a golf club or a cricket bat, they should be let off lightly, then we are doing a massive disservice to victims.

The response to this was, rather than reflect on the problem of domestic abuse and how we give a free pass to sportsmen, to accuse me of anti-Rangers bias. Just for the record, I don't give two hoots about football or what team a player belongs to.

That column ran last June and football fans are still not over it. As Celtic looked at signing Danny Simpson, my Twitter feed and email inbox lit up with messages asking me when I plan to write a column criticising Celtic's interest in the right back.

Mr Simpson, in 2015, was convicted of a domestic assault on his then-partner and mother of his daughter. Police who attended the couple's home reported finding the footballer straddling his partner with his hands firmly around her throat. He was given 300 hours of community service and his career continued to flourish.


Govanhill's Roma deserve more respect

The Premier League footballer was also used by police as the face of an anti-knives campaign, a truly bold move there, the police engaging someone with scant regard for the law.

But the point isn't the colour of his jersey. If you're bothered only that a man is getting a raw deal because of the team he plays for then you're not really concerned about the issue; you're upset over entirely the wrong thing.

There are so many examples of this. Last week the news agenda was overwhelmed by news of Scotland's high drug rates and it very quickly became a tit-for-tat between independence supports and those who prefer to remain in the union.

There's no way to move forward or solve issues if people are too blinded by biases to tackle real problems. Time for some mature thinking, surely?