A couple years ago, federal prosecutors charged a Missouri woman, Lori Drew, with creating a fake MySpace account through which she pretended to be a teenage boy. Ms. Drew then "friended" a 13 year-old neighbor of hers and said some very mean things. It wasn't long until the young neighbor girl killed herself. No doubt an absolute tragedy. Federal prosecutors filed several criminal charges accusing Ms. Drew of violating federal laws by pretending to be someone on-line that she was not. Apparently what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.
Last week, pursuant to a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act, the government had to concede that it has in fact been doing the same thing. They even have a "how to" document for its agents, instructing them how to obtain information about Americans through pretending to be something they are not, primarily on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all popular social networking internet sites.
This scares me for two reasons. First, apparently the most powerful government in the world, which is always the most powerful and well-financed party to any criminal lawsuit (most criminal defendants are poor), apparently feels it can violate the law, the same law that it is charging others with violating. Second, it strikes notions of an Orwellian 1984 Big Brother is watching you kind of chord.
Do you know who your "friends" are? I am being told that federal agents (and I have to believe state agents are doing the same) are earning confidences and gathering information from people through their on-line contacts. I think it is one thing to be monitoring sites for information, and quite another thing, and something much more dangerous, perhaps even entrapment and a violation of civil liberties, to be creating evidence through communications that they themselves are instigating.
Everyone hears the warnings about posting too much information on the internet, since you never know who is watching. Everyone knows that there are predators on the internet. Until just recently, innocent Americans just didn't know that Big Brother might be behind that "friend" request. And I'm sure their intentions will not be friendly.