What cases have you seen of self incrimination or unflattering postings on the net?
February 11, 2008 6:21 AM   Subscribe

What cases have you seen of self incrimination or unflattering postings on the net? What should teens know about their activities on the internet and how their lives might be affected by their postings on social networks, blogs, and other sites?

I (a high school student) have been tasked with presenting on various dangers of the internet to teens. The list includes the dangers of pornography (a topic which I am not covering myself), bully/hate messages, self incrimination, and the use of information by colleges and businesses.

The goal is to make students aware of the dangers and to make them think ahead. We have head several cases of kids getting into trouble and even not getting into certain colleges because of internet activity.

I want to know your feelings about these topics and any cases you know of. Feel free to link to videos, studies, pictures, or anything that could help me aggregate information about these topics.
posted by bjtitus to Technology (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A local high school here in Minnesota suspended a few student atheletes who had posted photos showing them drinking on their Facebook pages. They could only go after the student atheletes since they'd signed a pledge to abstain from alcohol during their sports seasons. Check out the editorials - some people were outraged that it was an issue, some thought the school didn't go far enough, and some students probably overreacted.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:30 AM on February 11, 2008

Students are usually surprised when I inform them that their online lives are fair game for any potential employer and their parents/relatives who have a decent sense of how to query. I also have personal experience that during faculty searches that candidates are researched online by at least one member of the committee and that can have an impact on the selection process.
posted by jadepearl at 6:42 AM on February 11, 2008

I wish I could find it... there was a very good public service type ad on TV in Canada where a girl puts up a picture on a bulletin board in a high school hallway and everytime someone walks by they take it and another copy reappears in its place... soon she sees everyone carrying around this picture but when she tries to take it down it just keeps coming back. It ends on a creepy note with an old male janitor coming along when the halls are empty and taking a copy with a creepy look on his face. It's very well produced.

Try to find this PSA - it's great and I think it would really resonate with teens without talking down to them. I've googled quickly but can't find a copy. It must be out there though.
posted by GuyZero at 6:50 AM on February 11, 2008

Their online lives are also fair game for college and university admissions offices.
posted by onhazier at 7:02 AM on February 11, 2008

I don't know how sophisticated you want to be with this sort of thing, but I think the example of how once you've put it online you can't really get it back is a good one and I think you can explain it without any oogyboogy talk about social spaces being dangerous. So, you can talk about things like employers Googling people [you could Google yourself and show what you could find if you know enough to, say, put your town in along with your name if you have a common name].

The most chilling recent event for me was the big MySpace security hole where even people's *private* photos and blog posts were found to be accessible by people who knew how to get them. A few links

- Fred Stutzman explains what happened.
- Slashdot thread about it
- basic "how to hack myspace" article

In short, before the vulnerability was discovered, someone used an automated script to download photos from 40,000 profiles marked private and they're now circulating the internet in a giant file that anyone can download. It's a classic case of not being able to get the photos back once you put them online. People may think that you have to be really sophisticated to be able to either hack into these places or see things you aren't meants to see, but the internet means that generally you just need to be able to find a web page to tell you how to do it, not be very sophisticated yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 7:36 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Every week there's someone on SomethingAwful.com who posts something embarrassing about a medical condition, sexual fetish/deviance, crime or what have you.

Every time the "internet detectives" find every post they've made on every forum, their myspace, facebook, livejournal, etc. They find phone numbers and email addresses and call and harass the person, their family, loved ones and employers.

Often, one could argue that they deserve it (pedophillia apologists, chav-like behavior) but what is more surprising than the speed, skill and maliciousness of the "internet detectives" is the fact that some idiot's going to do the same thing next week.

I'm not sure if non-members can see any of the material, but go to the forums and check out Helldump. If you are a member or want to waste $10 to join and see it do not post in Helldump.

If you are interested in examples from SA (and I don't know if that is a site you want to bring up in a high school report or not--it's popular but contains much that is offensive), send me a MeFi Mail and I'll send some screen shots your way.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:50 AM on February 11, 2008

You will likely find this recent PBS | Frontline television program (and accompanying website with the full program available) to be of interest: Growing Up Online.
posted by ericb at 8:42 AM on February 11, 2008

Also -- check out University of California's Digital Youth Research, Pew Internet & American Life Project's Teens and Social Media reports and the Digital Natives wiki for resources.
posted by ericb at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2008

There's also the case of Blair Hornstine. She received significant attention online (MeFi - 1, 2, 3) for her lawsuit in which sought to be named sole valedictorian of her high school graduating class. With the spotlight on her it came to light that she had plagiarized numerous sources for columns she had written for a local newspaper. A reporter (and others) reviewed her articles online and found numerous instances of copying on her part. As a result, Harvard rescinded their earlier offer of admission to her.

Lesson: What you write online stays online.
posted by ericb at 9:19 AM on February 11, 2008

...you could Google yourself and show what you could find if you know enough to, say, put your town in along with your name if you have a common name.

Be sure to check out this recent article in Newsweek about the new website Spokeo:
Friends Under The Microscope
“Over the holidays...I came across a site that made me wonder whether I should have stayed away from Facebook. The site in question is Spokeo, which promises that it ‘finds your friends' blogs and photos that you never knew about, guaranteed’ and ‘tracks your friends' new content, so you don't have to visit their Websites one by one.’ What this means is that when you sign up for Spokeo, it uses the addresses from your Web-based e-mail accounts to create a list of ‘friends’—which, in practice, is just about anyone you've e-mailed. Then it proceeds to scan 36 popular sites with social features, pulling together everything your friends have posted into a single, easy-to-read format. All tidbits are fair game: LiveJournal blog posts, YouTube videos, even Amazon wish lists. Most disturbingly, Spokeo never notifies your contacts that you're watching them.

Shortly after joining, I found a colleague's list of Pandora personal radio stations. While most of the titles were innocuous, one in particular, ‘I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You,’ seemed rather, well, personal. I could have found this information using a search engine like Google, but I would have had to know what I was looking for, and would probably have had to sift through dozens of Web pages. I messaged a few friends about Spokeo, and within a day or two they all wrote back to share what they'd dug up about friends and family—and to express their unease about the service. [more]”
posted by ericb at 9:52 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't forget dooce - who got herself fired from her job after she posted unflattering things about her boss on her website (quite a few years ago now). Link goes to her 'about' page which briefly mentions the incident - you can read her early archives to find out more.
posted by widdershins at 10:50 AM on February 11, 2008

I thought this was kind of disturbing:

Anorexic? Your Insurance Company Could Subpoena Your Writings On MySpace And Facebook
posted by Melsky at 11:40 AM on February 11, 2008

This thread came to mind. Quite a few examples in there. Be sure to note the references to rubies & weed .
posted by goshling at 2:37 PM on February 11, 2008

Employers/colleges will look, and they will judge. I work in student career services and we are having conversations across the country about how to explain to students that any information online is fair game. Often now, people who are part of the hiring process are also young enough to be facebook/friendster/myspace/whatever, and are nosy enough to take a peek. Think they can't find you because your name is John Brown? Try the fact that your name is John Brown, you're from a small town in MN, and they know your high school (why people are so damnably honest and candid in their blog, I just don't know. Can't you at least give a pseudonym for your high school?). Triangulate off of those facts, and there is a greater chance that they will find you.

So if you can't imagine answering the question in a college/job/internship interview about why you were drunk/doing drugs/in black face/ urinating in the street/ engaged in any illegal activity/writing that you stole your friend's boyfriend/doing anything unethical/ using very offensive language/etc., don't put it out there. And if it's already out there, do your darndest to wipe it out.

My understanding from an employer's point of view is that if any customer googles your name for say, your contact information to their organization, they'd prefer not to have the first hit be you in a video flashing faux weapons and gang signs at your friend's holiday party while you pepper the experience with colorful commentary like, "pimpin' ain't easy" or "b*itch, your mouth ain't for talkin'". Repeatedly. Ditto on the fact that dollars to donuts, if there is a student interview component to any interview (say, graduate school), that student is googling you - and no amount of 'leadership activities' your resume can overcome your vivid three part blog explanation of how you *had* to key your ex-girlfriend's car, because, well, she asked for it.

Same deal with students in the health sciences - no patient wants to google you and find out that you think they're disgusting and that their wife was super hot - besides violating HIPAA, it's just icky.

If you want to relive the memory, write it down on paper. If you write it online, just live with the risk of knowing it could adversely affect you. Might happen, might not. Figure out if it's worth it to you.

Sigh. Thanks for listening.
posted by anitanita at 9:24 PM on February 11, 2008

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