Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anthony Weiner and Internet Safety

So, I was cruising around Huffington Post earlier today, and found this article discussing the Congressman Weiner scandal. In it,  Jason Linkins writes,
“Here's the part I can't reconcile: when this story broke and Weiner began lying about it, he knew full well that this caused an unholy amount of upheaval in the life of… the women to whom the crotchshot image was sent, via Twitter, as well as numerous other women and girls whose only crime was that they followed him on Twitter… [T]he simple fact of the matter is that Weiner could have ended that instantly has he just come clean in the first place."
I hadn’t thought of it that way before. 

This article (in typical Internet fashion) linked to a second, much more terrifying article by Tommy Christopher: Weinergate Zealotry on Right and Left Exposes Underage Girls to Risk.
Mr. Christopher writes that:
"Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft, also known as Gateway Pundit, posted a list of young, female, mutual follows with Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter feed several days ago, ostensibly to express “concern” over the pattern, but his description of “Pages of Young Luscious Fans,” and his presentation of large photos of the girls, made it seem more like an exercise in exploitation. His inclusion of the young women’s Twitter links seemed more like an invitation to harassment. Whatever alleged “news value” this information had could have been preserved with a more responsible presentation, but sex sells, right?"
This makes me sick to my stomach—mainly because I have no idea how to prevent underage people from getting tangled up in such messes. 

Upon googling “Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet,” the first hit gives me a .gov address: FBI—Parent Guide to Internet Safety. While this one doesn’t have a copyright date, it’s pretty clear that this site dates from around 1996-97:

Um, CompuServe? Good grief.

And here, finally, is the FBI’s checklist for parents wanting their children to be safe while browsing the Internet:

This is particularly sobering for anyone (everyone?) with a Facebook profile, for there are slots to plug in any amount of personal information short of your Social Security Number. And uploading photographs to a place where people you don’t know can view them? Isn’t that the purpose of uploading photos to Facebook?

That reminds me. I need to recheck my Facebook Privacy settings. 

But what does all this have to do with Congressman Weiner? 

So, he made a mistake, switched a few keystrokes, and ended up sending his crotchshot over his Twitter feed. The importance of this is that it demonstrates in a pretty chilling way just how little control we have over what our children are exposed to on the Internet.  The girls who followed Congressman Weiner on Twitter did not intend to receive a photograph of a man’s crotch. But that’s what they saw in their Twitter feeds two weeks ago.

How, then, do we keep dirty pictures out of the reach of underage children when they KEEP CROPPING UP IN THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES?

The depressing truth is, you don’t. You can't. You can't control what a congressman posts on their Twitter, mistake or no. All you can do is keep reminding your children, your friends, your uncles, and your aunts to never, EVER post personal, identifying information in places that strangers can access. Because if you have this personal, identifying information floating about, and some crazy photo does cross your path, then you might become permanently and publicly entangled with the photograph, as were the young women whose only crime was following Congressman Weiner on Twitter. 

Let's all go to Facebook and recheck our privacy settings. Everybody!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Mission Statement