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Massachusetts Police Officials Tap into Social Networking Sites to Catch Criminals

images.jpgAs evidenced by recent news coverage, high school college student crime is significant and is an evolving and expanding area of the law. With the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc., issues involving high school and college students have become widely publicized and come under intense scrutiny and criticism. The ever-evolving world of social networking websites has opened the lives of its users to the public, carrying with it certain advantages and disadvantages. This technological phenomenon, which has created links between different people and cultures of the world, has resulted in a need for the development of new laws to police people’s online actions. There are many issues arising from the use of social networking websites, such as privacy issues, internet scams and phishing, negative repercussions of website use in areas of business and employment, and the protection of children. For instance, high school students may now be held accountable for their actions on social networking sites, such as bullying other students, making threats against teachers and students, and posting inappropriate content or images. Similarly, on college campuses, students have been subject to punishment for partaking in illegal activities such as underage drinking, drug-related offenses, and sexual assaults on other students. Social networks can be a resourceful tool to market yourself or your business, reconnect with old friends, and even find romance; the important thing is to remember that these sites can be misused, and have damaging repercussions to high school and college students that may potentially affect their future. Criminal prosecution in court and expulsion or suspension from school or college can be expected when crimes are committed or exposed using social networking sites.

While many social networking sites have age restrictions in place to regulate their user base, it is quite simple to enter a fake birth date and gain access to these sites. The problem with young users is that they are not aware of the risks that these social networking sites create. Many young people share too much information online and do not realize that anyone with an Internet connection can view it, even pedophiles, employers, teachers, their school nemesis, and their parents. Even police departments have begun to integrate the use of social networking sites in investigations. The Boston Globe reports that police officials in half of fourteen departments surveyed admitted to using social networking websites to gather information when investigating crimes involving young people. This is the root of the problems now faced by an increasing number of high school and college age students.

USING SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES TO CATCH CRIMINALS
Social networking has also come under scrutiny due to the tendency of teen bullies to target teen victims on the sites. Bullying has become a serious and widespread issue in the United States, with the National Crime Prevention Council reporting that 43% of teens were the victim of bullying in the past year, and has called upon the sites to help prevent bullying and catch those committing the acts. For instance, videos of beatings and humiliation have been posted to the popular video hosting website YouTube, and have caused certain individuals to take their own lives due to the ridicule and embarrassment felt from the posts. The videos themselves have actually led police to the identification of the bully and introduced the video or posting as evidence against them in trial.

The use of social networking sites has also been used by police officials to establish relationships between people involved in crimes, establish one’s motive, identify subjects, and even negate allegations of sexual assault. Police have been able to verify if two people are friends through the sites, identify individuals involved in a criminal act from photos posted to the site, read interactions between two people, catch child predators, and in allegations of sexual assault or rape, the sites have even helped to shed light on events that occurred. The public aspect of these sites allows officials to gather evidence on suspects without first securing a search warrant, permitting police to access information without their consent or the consent of the judicial system. It is very important to understand your rights when faced with a charge of this sort, as police, schools, universities and other authorities have aligned their goals of controlling and policing these types of crimes.

The use of social networking sites to gather information about individuals to be used as evidence against them is a new phenomenon that will only continue to expand. If you are facing a criminal charges stemming from the use of social networking sites, it is imperative that you enlist the help of an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney immediately. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is an experienced internet crimes defense firm which has dedicated itself to the defense of people accused of crimes through the use of social networking sites and the internet, and the firm strives to evolve with the law to effectuate the most aggressive defense strategy for your case. Attorney Murphy has successfully represented clients in Massachusetts for 18 years and possesses the knowledge and tools to defend your case. For additional information, please contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today for a free and confidential legal consultation by calling 617-367-0450 or completing the contacts tab on our website. As a dedicated lawyer, Attorney Murphy is available 24/7 to discuss your case.