How Facebook makes it harder to get away with crime … including thought crime

Based on a Los Angeles Times story on how a father tracked down his son’s murderer by researching the social networking sites used by his son and his son’s friends, Steve Sailer suggests that “today’s youths’ urge to document every bit of their social lives in text and pictures means that they have even more incentive to behave.”

- end of initial entry -

June 9

Matt writes:

I do think that Facebook and “public” social networking have a tendency toward making it harder to get away with crime, construed very broadly: including the crime of rejecting liberalism in particular and of engaging in illiberal thought in general. I realize that you did not take the position that social networking makes it harder to get away with crime and is therefore a good thing. You drew no conclusions whatsoever in your entry, merely reporting the trend.

I would simply urge your readers to consider carefully the implications of this story. Imagine what the KGB could have done in a society that so publicly, precisely, and permanently documents its every trivial interaction.

(Facebook by the way started out as something valuable because it enabled private interactions among friends and family. In a classic bait-and-switch, now that it has achieved the power associated with massive scale, it is pushing for all of those interactions and relationships to be as public as possible, since the more public they are the more efficiently they can be exploited for economic gain).

LA writes:

Here is the text of my entry pointing to Matt’s comment:

Facebook’s possible danger to conservatives

A reader points out that just as Facebook and other social media make it easier for society to apprehend criminals, they also make it easier for society to apprehend thought-criminals. Persons with non-liberal views are therefore advised to be most careful in their use of such media.

Jeannette V. writes:

As someone who is quite active on Facebook, let me tell you what the liberals and more specifically homosexuals are doing with social media. They are tracking down people and finding out where they live and where they work to harass them for “thought crimes.” I have several friends who have had calls to their place of employment and their bosses told about their hate crimes on Facebook in an effort to get them fired.

I own my own business so I’m immune to that kind of harassment. But I have received death threats from Muslims and some very graphic hate emails from homosexuals. Not to mention being called a Nazi and suggested I would make a good guard at a death camp.

June 10

Matt writes:

I appreciate what reader Jeannette V. writes about her Facebook experiences. The following is prompted by her comment but is not a direct response to her.

With respect to social media, I often hear the claim that (1) one is immune from non-government harassment or government persecution because of self employment or what have you; and (2) one does not share any information on social media which can be used against oneself.

I think there are potential problems with both claims.

With (1), the main problem I see is the assumption that things never change. In fact fortunes come and go, businesses fail, people fall ill and become dependent on others, the scope and form of government power changes, etc. Viewed from the perspective of decades rather than years, the claim of immunity looks rather weak. Never say never, the wise man said.

An additional problem with (1) is that life isn’t all about the individual: the assumption that liberal society will not persecute one’s family and friends as a proxy is not well founded; and social media makes it easier to know who to target, how, and why. (As an aside, Facebook facilitates criminal “casing”: for example, robbers will target the homes of people they know, through social media, to be on vacation).

In general, the post-Oprah “oversharing” generation, which posts geo-tagged vacation photos and bicycling logs for the entire known universe to view at any time until the end of time, has no idea what problems it is inviting upon itself. The reason it has no idea is that the post-Oprah oversharing generation is simply incapable of thinking in terms of decades, let alone centuries.

The problem with (2), the view that one does not share any information on social media which can be used against oneself, is that it is simply false. Mere participation in Facebook at all exposes all sorts of information about a person, because the “social graph”—the connections between social media “friends”—tells you all sorts of things about a person and those with whom he has some sort of relationship. Computer algorithms can make a very precise guess as to whether a given person is or is not homosexual based on just the social graph, for example. (Why do you think Facebook is valued at somewhere around $100 billion right now?)

In short, I think the claim that it is safe and wise for certain anti-liberals to participate in social media because of their own special circumstances is something which needs to be evaluated critically.

My own personal claims of immunity are probably as strong as those of any commenter. I personally do not and will not participate in any of the big “public” social media sites. I do use social media technology privately, on private servers; but not Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, or any of the big sites.

Also, the fellow who said that Facebook is anonymous could not be more wrong.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 08, 2011 12:10 PM | Send

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