It seems everyone is using social media these days. From old school friends reconnecting on Facebook to people expressing their views about politics, sports, and daily life on Twitter to finding your next job on LinkedIn, social media has become a life-changing tool. Despite all the positive things it has brought into our lives, not everyone uses social media for good. In addition to the general negativity of people speaking cruelly or spreading rumors, there are specific activities that break the law.
How do you know what is against the law when it comes to social media?
First and foremost, assume that any activity considered unlawful elsewhere in life is also illegal on social media. For instance, prostitution is just as illegal on social media as it would be if you were approaching someone in a bar or on the street, and likewise if you are the one interested in hiring the prostitute.
Another example of activity considered legal on or off social media involves adult interactions with minors. Every adult on social media needs to carefully monitor his or her behavior with underage followers and friends. Even if your intentions are innocent, your conversations are viewable by the world and if someone misinterprets anything it can lead to big trouble.
In a similar example, using social media to exchange child pornography with other users is also illegal. Remember child pornography laws apply to more than just middle-age men and women preying on young children. Teenagers and people in their early 20s have been charged with a crime when their under age significant other willingly shared pornographic photos.
In many instances, crimes begin on social media and carry over into real life. Had the occurrence taken place only on line, it might not have been illegal. In several instances of teen bullying, classmates began a verbal attack on social media that eventually escalated to physical violence. There are efforts underway to create stricter rules to govern bullying and verbal abuse on social media, but anything put into place to protect victims must not to infringe on another’s first amendment rights. Keep in mind it is always possible to report abusive behavior to the social media platform and in many cases, the abuser will be banned.
Finally, it is important to realize that if you are using social media in a negative manner and something tragic occurs, attorneys and law enforcement will aggressively work to charge you with any crime they can. Even if your actions with social media are not illegal, they will look for a secondary crime to ensure you are blamed and punished for the tragedy.
One example of this took place in Missouri beginning in 2006 and resulted in a young girl committing suicide. Megan Meier was victimized by a classmate’s mother, claiming to be a boy approximately the same age as Meier. The woman lured Meier into a friendship and then turned on her, and after months of abusive MySpace messages Meier took her own life. Though the mother could not be charged with homicide, she was indicted on three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress and a single count of criminal conspiracy. Just because you are not putting a gun to someone’s head does not mean you can not be held responsible for your behavior.
If you are concerned about legal and illegal behavior related to social media or you have been accused of a crime related to social media use, contact David Lindsey, Denver criminal law attorney. It is important to discuss your case as soon as possible and determine if you are at risk for being charged for a crime.