Intelligent Dialog Connecting Thoughtful People

August 17, 2010


Should civil and criminal activities on social media be governed by local, state or federal authorities?


I use the Internet for most of my information. I do have a subscription to my local paper, but other than that, the Internet is my source for information. I use it to find phone numbers, directions, and even to check out how much something may cost me at Walmart before getting in my car to go and buy it. I have used Craigslist, and purchased things from eBay and Amazon. I have chatted with friends on Facebook, and even posted information about upcoming shows on MySpace (for those of us who remember MySpace lol). When I read about the Craigslist killer, I am shocked and disturbed. But I am more disturbed as the common occurrence of verbal threats, hacking and other activities which are civilly inappropriate or criminal. People through these venues threaten other people, harass other people, and scam other people. Just ask Axl Rose how he feels about someone hacking his Twitter account and telling people that his upcoming concerts were cancelled. No one questions whether or not the misuse of social media is wrong. The question is who is responsible for catching and punishing those who grossly misuse social media. The debates continue as to whether or not the federal government, state governments or local governments should create and enforce law. Who should make the laws? Should civil and criminal activities on social media be governed by local, state or federal authorities?




No. One of the reasons for the explosion in social media is because it is not government regulated. And for this reason people should always be careful of what they do online, whether it is to write an email, post on a blog, Tweet, purchase items online or carry out other activities. The responsibility for monitoring ultimately belongs to the service provider because those sites are the ones directly impacted. Email is a good example. Because of the demand of its users, ISPs were the ones that ultimately took the lead in monitoring your incoming messages for spam. The ISPs usually segregated these messages elsewhere, and it is still your choice whether you want to read any or all of it.
Posted by Alan S. Portnoy, CPA


The answer to your question depends on what the alleged transgression is. Defamation is held to happen where the content is downloaded, as is internet gambling, but other things such as obscene publications are held to happen where the server is located.
My general rule is to be very careful that everything I say on the internet is courteous and professional. I quickly block (or 'un-friend') contacts whom I discover to be profane, abusive or just reckless/negligent in handing out unverified information because you can be tarnished by association.
I have found Linked-In to be very quick to assist on the one occasion when someone plagiarized my content and passed it off as theyre own. The offending copy was off the site within 24 hours. I don't use Facebook much as it is not where professional company directors do their on-line socializing.
My advice, if you are being harassed by anyone on the internet is to go straight to the platform operator on which the harassment is happening and ask them to prevent it. They owe you a duty of care and should comply with your request (else they risk being party to your claim for damages and compensation for pain and suffering).
Posted by Julie Garland McLellan


Hi Wade,

A contentious debate often starts when one decides who should monitor egregious activity of other users who might infringe upon the rights of others. One trend that has started in social media circles is for corporations to implement Social Media Policies with the expert advice of legal counsels that defines the rules of the game for what is considered acceptable behavior.

Generally speaking, these policies are protective of the product brand image of each corporation with indemnification clauses should any litigation be brought forth from the result of negligence. It will be intriguing to watch further developments on this subject.
Posted by Rob McClenahan


I agree with Alan about being careful .In my industry there are a lot of people out there that don't dig deep enough to get real facts. That is why we try to have a local presence in the entire major markets .We feel it is better to deal with a community member that has a vested interest in where they live. Helping people go thru the vast. Quick moving landmines of information, we slow things down just a bit and try to make sure our clients peel some onions before taking risks. We ask people to be careful..." Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts". Daniel Patrick Moynihan Put government in the middle and it will provide a false sense of security for many.
Posted by Barney Greenbaum


Truthfully, things shouldn't be censored but it sure seams since a few years ago almost everything on the internet it being proof read, edited and even wiped off. Notice when we lost the right to select viewing on free air waves and are now monopolized to subscribe to satellite or cable. When it comes to hacking, altering anothers' messages, etc., I feel government should go after these people and prosecute to the fullest. People are fired from companies for those actions.
Posted by Lawrence Cassidy
I don't know that the laws for misusing social media will ever be enforced. The amount of money it would take to enforce the laws would outweigh the cost of the crime. It is the same with credit card fraud. It costs the Visa's and MasterCard's of the world more money to prosecute the offenders than to eat the cost and pass it along to their clients.

The social media outlets can't afford to look into scams and spammers and still offer free or low rate services.

I guess we will have to use common sense and our block buttons for now, because paying a government entity tax dollars to police these things would be a huge drain on resources.
Posted by Darin Toki


A Message from Wade K. Meyer, M.Ed. Host of Inviting Conversations

Inviting Conversations posts questions to elicit Intelligent Dialog Connecting Thoughtful People. Inviting Conversations is committed to respecting different sides of the issues we present. On occasion, questions will elicit intense dialog. Please remember that Inviting Conversations does not post comments which are clearly inappropriate. The only other changes made are to correct spelling and other grammatical errors. This being said, please remember that the opinions expressed are not the opinions of Inviting Conversations Team Members or of the host, Wade K. Meyer, M.Ed.