For the past several years, more and more attention is being paid to the Internet and whether it is truly a safe space for people of all ages, in part because a few bad apples have used it to do some pretty horrible things. In Minnesota and the country’s rabid fight against Internet sex crimes, there has been an increased effort to monitor communications and proactively fight against people who law enforcement believes to be misusing the Internet.
But what does this mean for Minnesotans? Well, anyone that uses Facebook and many other social media sites may be surprised to learn that their private communications may not be as private as they thought. Facebook, in particular, scans through personal communications, whether that is an individual message or a chat, for language that it considers to be suspect. Though these initial screens are impersonal technological programs, when language is flagged, an employee will actually read the communications.
These social media sites are looking specifically for language of “grooming,” an effort to develop a deeper connection with an individual. Though it is true that this could be an indicator of an Internet sex crime, there are numerous legal reasons why someone would use Facebook to create a solid relationship. There may even be reasons for creating a sexual relationship on Facebook. With the increase in online dating, this kind of technology could be exposing a lot of innocent individuals to prying eyes and police investigations.
As more information comes out about this social networking giant’s communication-scanning policies emerge, it remains to be seen how it will affect participation on Facebook.
Source: Huffington Post, “Facebook’s Hunt For Child Predators Meets Uneven Success: Other Social Sites Face Similar Problems,” Joseph Menn, July 12, 2012