Tuesday, May 22, 2007

But It's For The CHILDREN...

A number of Attorneys General from various states have filed subpoenas to force MySpace.com to turn over the names of those individuals who have had their profiles removed from the site through MySpace's "Sentinel Safe" software. MySpace, citing privacy laws, waited until the legal actions were taken to release the information.

Despite the breathless talk of "protecting children," this is really little more than a thinly veiled attempt for some politicians to score points at the expense of an unpopular group of people.

"I think once we find out the content of the messages — of course, it will depend on how long they retain that information — we may very well find that some of the messages included illegal enticement of a child," [Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood] said.
Then again, they very well may find - absolutely nothing. This is what the legal concept of "probable cause" is for. I mean, if law enforcement were allowed to search private homes whenever they wished - of course, depending on how long people keep things - they might very well find evidence of criminal activity. As useful as we might find the idea of allowing the police to randomly check people out on the off chance that a crime has been committed, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is usually construed to say you can't. To wit:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
I know that this makes me sound like some heartless weirdo who advocates for expanded rights for sexual predators, even if that results in death or injury to innocent children. [Yay, spin!] But that's not really what I'm getting at. In all honesty, I suspect that some of the people whose information is turned over are going to be found to have been in contact with children, leading to high-profile arrests. (Keep in mind, that I'm playing the cynic, here.) But you could say the same with a home-by-home search of a large apartment complex or subdivision. We don't want our legal system to get to the point where what stands bewteen a person and law-enforcement scouring their lives for evidence of criminality is a popularity contest, or political volume. When we start allowing the law to fall by the wayside when we're dealing with unpopular people, implicit in that is the idea that these people are justifiably unpopular. So are Hispanics justifiably unpopular enough that we shouldn't need probable cause before rounding them up? You'll likely find some illegal immigrants that way. How about Moslems? We might very well find some evidence of Islamist sympathies.

I've never been one for "slippery slope" arguments, and I'm not really attempting to make one here. Rather that laws should be followed, and if we don't like them, changed, so that we all know where we stand. If conviction for certain crimes carries with it the suspension of Fourth Amendment rights, let's put that out there, where people can see it, and know the score. Using scare tactics to convince people that their children are at risk from cyber-stranger-dangers (especially when you consider that 95% of sex-abuse crimes against children involve family members - who are unlikely to have met their targets through MySpace) don't do anything to solve the problem. Because almost anyone can be scary, if you can find the right arguments.

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