Thursday, September 27, 2012

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.

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