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Facebook and Sexual Predators – Is Monitoring Too Invasive

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

How much do you feel efforts like the ones I will list below will actually help in preventing more sexual abuse of minors by predators?

I’m skeptical.

In one, proposed by State Senator “Kip” Bateman, registered sex offenders will be required to post their sexual offender status online as part of their profile. This is a measure modeled after a Louisiana law.

Much the same way those convicted of sexual offenses against minors would have to notify authorities of their whereabouts under Megan’s Law .

According to the Senator:

…“In many ways, sex offenders can use the Internet as a venue and a means to plot and begin to carry out their crimes against vulnerable and unsuspecting victims,”. “This legislation supplements Megan’s Law to assist law enforcement agencies in stepping up their increasingly successful efforts targeting and fighting Internet sex crimes.”

Some convicted of sex offenses in New Jersey can be barred from using forms of social media as a provision of their probation, according to Megan’s Law, but others are permitted some access.

The Associated Press recently reported that civil-rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are labeling some such prohibitions as infringing on freedom-of-speech rights for inmates who can find it more difficult to reintegrate into society when they can’t access websites such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

If we were to go that route, then why not ban all sex offenders from using social media sites to begin with?

Do you know why we don’t?

Because it’s unenforceable…that’s why!

In another measure,
Facebook has developed a software program that detects online conversations and flags them as inappropriate.

The article states:

…the emphasis is on what are called “inappropriate conversations.” This little-known effort, in fact, has already helped law enforcement officials thwart pedophiles and other sexual aggressors.

For example, Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has witnessed this software work firsthand. On March 9th of this year, Facebook noticed suspicious conversations between a man in his early thirties and a 13-year old girl from South Florida. When the software noticed the sexually explicit nature of the conversations and plans for an encounter after her middle-school classes, the conversation was flagged.

Facebook employees then read the conversation and immediately informed the police. Duncan that the authorities took control of the girl’s computer and arrested the man the next day. The alleged pedophile subsequently pleaded not guilty to the charge of soliciting a minor.

While it worked in this case, the surveillance practice is fraught with legal complexity, and both the company and authorities know it. Facebook tends to avoid comment on this practice, because the organization doesn’t want to create scare stories or stir surveillance paranoia.

But they already have…or at least, in my view, they have.

What say you?

Do you feel all these efforts to monitor social media are too invasive; or are they just being proactive in catching sexual predators?


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