Business - Written by Lauren Peer on Thursday, July 31, 2008 18:04 - 2 Comments
My space: It’s 4 x 6 with bars
After reading Ian’s post last week about how in the new age of connectivity the lines between what is work related and what is personal are not only blurred, I was reminded of an article along the same subject line. The article discusses several court cases in the US involving young people charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol. In these cases, prosecutors have accessed the defendants’ Facebook and Myspace pages and made sentencing agreements and recommendations based on the perceived behavior of the defendants in the photos posted on the sites.
In one case, a defendant was sentenced to two years in prison rather than probation because between her DUI arrest and conviction, pictures were posted to her Myspace page showing her to be holding a glass of wine and joking about drinking. Distasteful, but not illegal. According to the prosecutor this photo evidence showed a sufficient lack of remorse on the part of the defendant and therefore warranted a harsher sentence.
This article very neatly describes what could become a very slippery legal slope. I bet that most of us have at some time or another heard about a case in which we were sure that the accused was guilty and had the thought that prosecutors should do whatever it takes to achieve a conviction. But there is something about prosecutors using photos accessed from social networking sites to secure a conviction that seems a little too ‘Big Brother-esque’ to make me comfortable with it.
I do not condone the behavior of the individuals mentioned in this article or others like them. But, I find it to be pretty scary to think that one’s innocent actions — irrespective of any bad taste — could be manipulated or misinterpreted so that they become sinister, even damning. It is important to remember that although a picture may be worth a thousand words those words often only make sense within a certain context.
The idea that a prosecutor may be able to paint the context of these pictures so clearly when they technically have nothing to do with the crime committed is frightening. In a world of transparency, where someone’s indescretions can be easily broadcast for all to see, is context lost? If it is, what right do we have to pass judgment on them?
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