TechTalk: Can MySpace land you in jail?

Written by Amanda Loch on . Posted in Writing

If you’ve ever been in someone’s “Top 8,” or written on someone’s “wall,” keep reading. Online social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook can be found on more than half of the screens in the NEIU computer labs at any given time. You aren’t fooling anyone hiding the window behind Microsoft Word, guys.

These sites allow us to stay in touch with each other. You can search for old high school friends, share pictures from last night’s party, and send messages to people without e-mailing. You can promote your band, update your blog, give people up-to-the-minute checks on your status and form groups for any reason whatsoever (I personally favor my participation in the Andrew Eisenberg fan club group).

Even professional artists, actors and TV shows are getting into the mix to promote themselves. Seems like a barrel of fun.

But MySpace and Facebook have recently started landing people in sticky situations with the law. Teachers and employers may also be perusing your MySpace profile or Facebook account. For example, according to ArkCity.net, a student at Cowley College was removed from the drama program she was enrolled in because school administrators found derogatory comments she had written about one of her professors in her MySpace blog, Also, many employers have started to screen out candidates who have shady information or unflattering pictures posted in their accounts.

Because these sites are searchable, anyone can find you if they enter the right information, such as your name, for example. Although Facebook surpasses MySpace when dealing with security (you have to approve someone’s request to “friend” you before they can see your info), the amount of information we have begun to willingly provide to the world is appalling. Names, workplace information, detailed interests, personal location, phone numbers, e-mail addresses … the list goes on and on. Aside from the fact that if you happen to gain a stalker at any point in your life, you’re in trouble, these sites have become a new tool for the police and investigators.

WCCO (CBS4, Minnesota) reported on two high school students who were suspended recently after posting pictures of themselves getting drunk in their MySpace profiles. A boy in Denver was jailed after he posted photos of himself surrounded by guns on his MySpace account, according to the Denver CBS affiliate. Students in Washington state were nabbed by police for posting video of themselves assaulting another student on their MySpace page.

In short: law enforcement has been alerted to the way younger generations are communicating, and in doing so, stumbled upon a gold-mine of self-incrimination.

I’m not trying to help you get away with doing anything unlawful. This is simply a wake-up call: if you are stupid enough to do something illegal and post it in a social networking community, you deserve to be caught. Now, thanks to all this heightened online awareness, you will be.

However, even for my fellow law abiding citizens, this should serve as a reminder that you never know who is looking at you online, and how the information you volunteer without second thought everyday might come back to haunt you later.

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Amanda Loch

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