Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way that people interact. As they become the primary means of communication for the younger generation, some parents and law enforcement officials have become concerned that sex offenders may be using the sites to connect with children and take advantage of them. In response to these concerns, some sites have stepped up efforts to identify and report potential sex predators to the police. As critics point out, however, these efforts are not only costly, but may also stifle expression and flag users who have done nothing wrong.
Problematic Legal System
In order to create an effective system, social media sites have explored using both software and human moderators to find questionable interactions. The software piece is usually fairly simple: a program scans messages for abusive language or exchanges of personal contact information such as email addresses or phone numbers. Some systems will seek to determine whether a user has asked multiple people for contact information or attempted to develop deeper relationships with particular users. Once an exchange or a user is flagged, a moderator will examine the information and determine whether to alert law enforcement.
Of course, the use of these systems comes at a cost. Screening software is generally expensive and the information it gleans from any site requires long hours of examination from moderators. Social media sites have to choose whether to hire their own employees to run their program or to contract the process with vendors, both of which require deep pockets.
In addition, screening software and moderator review raise serious privacy concerns. Only a small fraction of flagged interactions are, indeed, inappropriate, but each receives review. And though the use of these sorts of programs may be disclosed in a site’s end user agreement, many people do not realize that their interactions may be monitored. Though sites want to respect their users’ privacy, a system that uses nothing but software is simply not as effective.
An additional problem is what sort of training human moderators receive. In most cases, moderators have no training in law enforcement or identifying sex predators. Though the inappropriateness of some interactions may be obvious to anyone, there is a genuine possibility that people may be flagged and subject to police review even though they have done nothing wrong.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or someone you love has been charged with statutory rape, possession of child pornography or any other serious sex crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can assess your case, explain the likely effect of a conviction or plea deal and help you protect your rights. For more information about what a criminal defense attorney can do for you, contact a lawyer today.