If you don’t have a MySpace or Facebook account, you’re nobody. Especially teens. Everyone has them and then some. So when middle school resource officer John Nohejl in Florida decided to set up a MySpace account so he could communicate with students in ways they do (with the blessing of the school), it seemed like a brilliant idea.
But someone on his 170 person “friends” list had a link on their profile to a porn site. And so, ”the Florida attorney general’s elite cyber crimes unit are investigating him for making adult content available to underage children.” Allegations have also surfaced that Officer Nohejl’s mailman took his AMC Pacer to a garage where someone else had their K-car services who had a cousin who was once seen purchasing a Starbucks Vente Frocacino Latte made by a barista who knew someone with a Facebook account that included a “friend” who had another “friend” with a link to a porn site on their profile.
Almost everyone who reads Gid’s story will fully appreciate the significance, not to mention stupidity, of tainting the officer with a link on a profile of a “friend”. How much more obvious and ridiculous can it be?
Well, apparently it was not only deemed worthy of investigation by this “elite” investigative unit of the Florida AGs office, but required them to go public about predatory threat to children. Against a middle school resource officer, who appears (from his picture) to look an awful lot like a police officer. He looks like he knows his way around a donut.
Today, almost everybody has some connection to an account like Facebook, even someone as out of touch as me. I admit that I don’t really have a clue what Facebook is all about, or how to use my profile, or what to do when I get these “invitations” from people I don’t actually know who invite me to be their Facebook “friend”.
These invites come because I’m listed as a “friend” to someone else, who the inviter is also “friends” with, and I guess that they invite their friend’s friends. In any event, it somehow winds its way down to me. I don’t actually have a clue who these people are or why they are sending me an invitation. What am I to do about it?
Do people who understand and use Facebook know who their “friends” are? Do they check them out before letting them in the cyberdoor to make sure they are kosher? Assuming that eventually, every person with a computer will be a degree or two of separation from everyone else on Facebook (or whatever replaces it as the hot new place to be on the internet next week), are we all tainted by the one person who has an inappropriate link on his profile?
But here’s the thing that worries me. This “elite cyber crimes unit,” a group that someone like me would assume to have sufficient knowledge of how this stuff works to understand just how ridiculous this was, took it very seriously. If they took action against the officer, would the judge not presume that they know what they’re talking about? Would the judge have laughed the AG’s “elite cyber crimes unit” out of court? Let us assume that eventually, even a judge would figure out this was just stupid, but would the officer’s career and life be in shambles by the time that happened?
Hopefully, ridicule in the blawgosphere for this idiocy will put an end to this AG investigation and save the next person from being the target of a witch hunt. But there will be another techno threat down the road of similar foolishness. This is going to be a problem for a long time to come.
Update: And another good yuk out of the New York Times City Room:
“We have to admit that life is different than when we were growing up,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. “We have to have educational programs so that parents know about MySpace and Spacebook and…”
Uh, did he just say “Spacebook?”
O.K., well, Mr. Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat, did admit he was out of his depth. “When we were young, things were different. And we need to pass legislation that reflects today’s world, not yesterday’s world,” he continued. “Old geezers like me have no clue about the Internet and all of its intricacies.”
I am really not kidding about this. People are making all sorts of important decisions without the slightest clue what they’re talking about. Really!
H/T Heather in a comment at A Public Defender