internet crime

Should Web Site Owners and Social Media Be Held Accountable?

Earlier this week I posted about an incident of Internet crime where a young man allegedly stalked minors on facebook with fake identities and sockpuppet accounts.

Tonight I read this article:

A substitute teacher at a Georgia high school has been fired after he allegedly took photos of a female student in class and posted them to the Internet, authorities said. He is now being investigated by the local Sheriff’s office, Fox Atlanta reports.
 
The teacher, whose identity has not been released, allegedly posted covert photos of an East Coweta High School student to the “CreepShots” forum on Reddit. The subsection, which carries an “18 and over” disclaimer, is devoted to photos of women taken without their knowledge.

When someone on reddit complained and threatened to contact the authorities, this is how the reddit moderator replied:

“When you are outside and in public space, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” the user wrote, likening photography without consent to the relationship between celebrities and paparazzi.

It’s an interesting article that gets into this in more detail, with examples of how Anderson Cooper made comments in 2011 with a similar situation.

I know nothing about Reddit, or what people do there. But it’s obviously a web site that does not vet what users are doing or the photos they are posting. If they were, you wouldn’t see photos of minors posted in a forum called “creepshots.” And I think it’s time for them to be held accountable, as businesspeople. I have a sense of humor, I’m not holier than thou, as Joe Konrath would say, but I do think that when “creep” photos of minors are taken in a classroom and posted on a public Internet forum, there’s something wrong with the web site…as a business…itself.

Why aren’t Internet businesses, like facebook and reddit, forced to follow the same laws other businesses follow. Why are web sites and social media allowed to instigate corruption by allowing users to post sexually suggestive photos of minors, and why are they allowed to encourage fake identities that many times lead to crimes of bullying, victimization, and stalking?

Try owning a restaurant, or a retail clothing store, and allowing some of your customers to put up photos of minors on a bulletin board next to the cash register and see what happens. The business owner would be held just as responsible as the person who posted them on the board. I’ve owned several service/retail businesses and I took full responsibility for my actions and the actions of my employees at the time, because I knew that one wrong move would involve a lawsuit I didn’t want to deal with.

Not so much with Internet businesses. They get away with anything they want, and they do it with a sense of entitlement we haven’t seen since the days of the old Wild West. They seem to have free range to post, do, or allow anything they want…even at the cost of someone else’s security and well-being. In many cases with minors.

I believe in freedom of speech, and I know personally what it’s like to be censored by mistake. All I’m saying is that all Internet businesses, including all social media, should be held accountable if and when something does happen that is questionable. And I think posting photos of young women in classrooms on reddit falls into that catergory.

Joe Konrath Says Sockpuppets are No Big Deal; Man Arrested in New Jersey for Internet Stalking With Sockpuppets

One of the things I’ve been predicting about a lot of the Internet corruption happening these days is that the law will eventually step in and take over. Charges will be pressed and these Internet crimes will be prosecuted. How Internet crimes are defined seems arguable these days. Joe Konrath seems to think that no one is completely innocent and no one can point the finger at anyone else. In fact, this is what Konrath says in a recent post:

Fake reviews, like sock puppets and trolling and flame wars, will always be part of the Internet and are no big deal.

He’s even created a few fake reviews on Amazon, here. He did this on purpose for a reason. He’s trying to prove his point and he’s speaking about a very small segment of Internet crime. I don’t want to take his post or his comments out of context; he’s trying to be funny. And if it were all this simplistic and the world were all hopey and changey and peace and love, I would probably agree with him all the way around. And what a wonderful world it would be, indeed.

But I know people who work closely with Internet crime daily and the world isn’t like that. The people I know who work in Internet crime scope the Internet daily to help expose child molesters, gambling rings, and stalkers of the worst kind. That’s just to name a few, without getting into child porn and drugs. A good deal of this crime is based on Internet anonymity and sockpuppeting. And even though what happens with online reviews of any kind can be labeled as less offensive than the things I mentioned above, it’s still sockpuppeting, it’s still misleading, and it’s still wrong. I know it’s less of a crime to steal gum at the drugstore than it is to rob a bank. But it’s still stealing. Plain and simple.

In New Jersey a young man was recently arrested for allegedly stalking juveniles with sockpuppet accounts.

Troopers arrested Craig L. Wyatt Jr. of Hamilton Township, according to a press release. He is being held in Atlantic County Jail on $35,000 bail.

The arrest came on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The group alerted New Jersey State Police in July that a Facebook account using the name Jimmy Raketerra sent a threatening message to a juvenile from Browns Mills.

Clearly, this has been an ongoing investigation, as are most Internet crimes these days. This person allegedly used e-mail and social media to threaten juveniles under more than one fake identity and sockpuppet account. I’m not even getting into the ramifications of social media here, and where their responsibility rests. That would be a completely different post altogether. I also wonder if the people who invest in facebook stock realize that the so-called billions of facebook accounts are not all one account with one person. In some cases it’s two or three accounts to one person. In others it’s far more.

I’m certain this isn’t going to be the last time we hear about an arrest like this. And while I wish I could agree with Konrath when he says sockpuppets are no big deal, I can’t help but look at the overall picture of the Internet crime we are facing and will be facing in the future and wonder how many more times I’m going to read about Internet corruption being exposed. Because the interesting thing is this…and I know first hand from people who are involved with Internet crime…you can hide, you can try to cover all the bases, you can pretend no one will ever find out, but eventually you will get caught. Another thing of which I’m certain is that the young man who was arrested in New Jersey had no idea he’d been under investigation that long.

How many others are under investigation right now? It’s something to think about, not laugh about. And that’s because on the Internet there’s always a trail.