Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do you really want to put THAT in writing? Internet Commuinication Safety

For some reason, most people that communicate via the Internet or text message often forget to use their common sense. Maybe it comes from the early days of the Internet when we could all sign on with relative anonymity and communicate with others all over the world with that same anonymity. But those days are over. When communicating via instant message, email or text message a simple subpoena can get your name, address and phone number in a relative short period of time. For some reason most people seem to take a more casual tone when communicating via instant message, email or text message; but forget their statements are now memorialized and writing. And that is exactly where the problem lies.

Statements made in writing can easily be printed out, taken out of context and used against you. Common statements once made in jest can now be used to incriminate you or used to support others' law suits against you. Sexual innuendo often used by many people as simple flirtation or punctuation is now open for interpretation by readers the message was never intended to reach. Over exaggerated statements like "I'd kill you if you did that again" or "yeah I'd 'do' him" can easily be taken out of context and used as the basis for civil and criminal legal action.

This warning not only applies to "personal" communication but is even more apt for communication that occurs in a business setting. Many criminal matters I handle as well as civil matters now include emails, electronic communication, and copies of websites and pictures posted used as evidence in the case that is pending.

Additionally, on July 27th, 2006, President Bush signed H.R. 4472, The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006. I urge you all to google this very important legislation and make yourself familiar with its provisions. In short, among a few other provisions, any website that has "sexually explicit imagery" must maintain records of those individuals depicted that have their name, date of birth and address. So, in theory if you have naked pictures of yourself posted on a website you could possibly subject yourself to the provisions of this law. How is this to be implemented you ask, as there are probably millions of such images all over the net; to that question I have no idea how the government plans on enforcing this law? I would also think there may be some constitutional issues as to freedom of speech rights that this law may infringe upon. However, you stand warned that this law is out there.

Finally, I have warned people for years now, to be very careful when sending out naked pictures of yourselves or sexually suggestive statements out over the net. Remember you have no idea who is on the receiving end of that email. As any experienced Internet person knows, many times the person on the other end of your communication is not "exactly" who you thought them to be.

My advice before sending an instant message, email or text message: do not be so hasty to hit the send button. Write what you want to write, then put it aside for a few minutes, reread it and think to yourself: "Is there anything in here that I do not want ANYONE else seeing? 'Could anything in this email be taken out of context if read by the wrong person?" If the answers to these questions are "yes' perhaps it may be better for you to pick up the phone and talk to the person, before you commit yourself to put these statements in writing.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter please do not hesitate to contact my office at (310) 749-4LAW. Additionally, I have posted most of my old articles at FREELEGALINFO4U.BLOGSPOT. COM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure wish I would have read your advice long ago.. pay attention to this guys... this dude knows his shit..

12:44 PM


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