Winding down my court appearances for 2012, I am struck by the number of criminal cases I had this year that involved social media. Either the crime started with a social media component, or involved some evidence gleaned from a social media platform.
One 19-year old defendant struck-up an electronic relationship with a girl on the tagged.com web site. Problems arose when, at her insistence, he met her in the real world and, again at her insistence, had real-life sex. She looked all of 17-years old, but was in fact, only 14. A criminal sexual conduct charge followed.
In another case, one of our probationers was violated for allegedly consuming alcohol. When we showed up in court on the hearing, her probation officer treated us to pictures of the young woman with a glass of beer in her hand, provided to the PO courtesy of one of our client’s FB “friends” who also was on probation and was looking to bargain herself up the food chain. The two are no longer friends.
In a third case, a young 17-year old tech-savvy client found his way onto a few peer-to-peer networks. Some of these networks had been outfitted with the trappings of social media in order to attract young web surfers. Problems for this young man arose when some of the pornographic images he downloaded, then shared, contained child pornography. By allowing them to remain on his laptop, and by continuing to participate in the peer-to-peer network, he attracted the attention of the ever-vigilant federal child porn task force and became the subject of a law enforcement raid on his home. He is now charged with several counts of possession and distribution of child pornography, fighting to stay clear of a prison cell.
Moral of the story: what you do on-line is similar to doing something in public. On most of these sites, you are not cloaked in any expectation of privacy; especially when you are breaking the law.
As in public, when on-line, respect and obey the law.