Two interesting developments in the last few days. One, concerning access to Facebook, could be controversial. The second, a change by Facebook that is more irritating than serious.
A new law in Louisiana, makes it mandatory for convicted sex offenders to state their status as such on their Facebook and other social media pages.
More details are contained in this CNN report by Michael Martinez.
I have no sympathy for sex offenders who molest young children or use violence against women, I believe that they deserve harsh punishment including long jail terms. If ever there was a case for the return of public flogging, and the death penalty for the worst offenders, this would be it.
But I have problems with making them advertise their status in social media.
1)If they have served their sentence, paid the penalty for their crimes (the problem with inadequate sentences is a separate issue) should they continue to be punished? Is this not a form of discrimination? Will the law also require those convicted of fraud to advertise their status? Social media are as fertile hunting grounds for scam artists as they are for child molesters. What about other crimes? Is a convicted prostitute a sex crime offender? That could be one case where the social media account holder would be happy to have his or her status displayed – wonderful publicity which as far as I know can not be published in social media as things are now.
2)Following on from 1 above, what if the recently released sex offender maintains a social media page for his own or his employer’s, business. What if the offender is active in the “old” media, newspapers, magazines, radio or TV as a writer, presenter or actor, does he need to advertise his status in those media? If it is in society’s interest to get released offenders productive and off any form of taxpayer assisted welfare as soon as possible, are those not more handicaps?
3)If predators are using social media sites to successfully lure victims, they are almost certainly using fictitious identities. That being the case, the new law is not going to be effective.
4)This law is yet another example of the thin end of the wedge, although it has a lot more merit than some others that have been rushed into force with embarrassing speed, determining what breeds of dogs people may own for example. It is still more evidence of Big Brother government attempting to control people’s lives. Protecting children from sex predators should be more to do with good parenting, education and stiff penalties for offenders than more laws.
5)What if the provisions of the law are expanded? Would having a dispute with the tax collectors require a status update on Facebook that you are a serial tax offender? Perhaps we might be required to list all the traffic tickets we have collected. What about our political affiliations? Shades of 3rd world Zimbabwe where people have to produce a membership card for Mugabe’s party before getting food aid (mainly supplied by western donors)
All things considered, a very dangerous precedent.
More irritating than serious, is the latest example of Facebook’s inability to stop fixing things that are not broken.
Facebook has changed all account holders contact email addresses to an firstname.lastname@example.org address. Only the email address which can be seen by visitors to your page checking your details on the about tab. The email address that was set for notifications from Facebook has not been changed.
It is irritating for those account holders who wanted people to be able to contact them by email, now they will have to check their assigned @facebook.com address to retrieve messages. It does not worry me, I tried having an email address visible and attracted more spammers than bees to a honey pot. If someone really wants to contact me, they have to take the trouble to send me a Facebook message. Only very few of the most desperate spammers do that.
Read more about it and how to change it here on Yahoo news.
Wishing you success in all your endeavours.