As a parent you'd naturally be upset if a stranger were following your child around the mall or your neighborhood, so why aren't parents upset that their kids are being followed around in online games?
When "anismuncher1" is asking all players in a game geared toward children, "where do you live?" do you get the chills or do you have a sense of insulation because it's just on the Internet? When a Roblox player is following the girl characters around saying "you're pretty" do you see an imminent threat, a predator hunting for vulnerable children, or a weirdo looking for attention?
Every year Google releases the top 10 searches of the previous 12 months, both for the US and Globally, did you Google all of these in 2016?
Similar to 2015 these 2 lists are fairly different. Of those that appear on both lists: Pokemon Go, Powerball, Prince Slither.io, Olympics, Trump and David Bowie, most are entertainment related.
For those who have never heard of Slither.io before, it is the follow up to the multiplayer game Agar.io released in April of 2015. Instead of swallowing other cells in Slither.io you are a snake working to eat other snakes.
Pokemon Go is the search nearest to the top for both the US and global searches. The hugely popular follow up to Ingress from Niantic Labs had people all over hunting for Pokemon, with some unfortunate instances of those playing in inappropriate places, like the Holocaust Museum and the 9/11 Memorial.
So you're busy shopping on the Internet when for one reason or another, you've clicked on a website link, clicked on a link in an email, etc, and this Paypal page opens. But did you check to see if it's really Paypal before attempting to put in your username and password?
While this website is an awfully good imitation of Paypal the domain name / web address is the giveaway. preinformized.com is most certainly not Paypal.
For reference, here is what Paypal's website currently looks like. Notably, until very recently Paypal did have the login on the top right of the front page of the site, however as their website is being spoofed frequently it is good to make frequent changes, like this, to help consumers differentiate their site from the fake ones.
With a little research we discovered some interesting things about preinformized.com. The domain itself is owned by someone who uses an email address at platformerzones.info which if you try and go to that website you find it's been suspended... Interesting, but as there are so many reasons a domain might be suspended by a website hosting company, which in this case appears to be in Europe, not much can be concluded by a suspension.
Beyond that, preinformized.com itself is hosted by an American hosting company, which is a little unusual as most of these sorts of scams are run from foreign locations as opposed to domestic. It is also well within the realm of possibility that it is a domain that has been exploited by a script kiddie or other hacker. That supposition is backed up by there being no domain privacy set on the registrant's information, leaving both the person and their address visible to everyone. Most importantly of the "everyone" would be the local authorities and Paypal itself who I'm fairly sure doesn't appreciate being spoofed.
So what do I do now if I've put my username and password into a site like the one at preinformized.com? First immediately change your password, because whoever you've sent that information to is someone you DEFINITELY don't want having it. Second, do you use that password anywhere else? Say your online banking? Well go change it everywhere you use it!!
In many cases once you've entered your username and password you get an error saying it didn't work or it just takes you back to the same spoofed page, although some of the more savvy cyber criminals will redirect you to the actual Paypal website where you find it frustrating that you have to re-enter your username and password to access your account, but you don't stop to realize that you were on a completely different website only moments before. This scenario allows the criminals more time to exploit the information they have now gathered about you.
The biggest piece of advice we give anyone using the Internet is to always make sure the domain name / web address matches the website you believe you are accessing!
Recently we brought you a story about the possible consequences of what you say / post on the Internet. It’s a tale we’ve actually discussed time and again; a series of cautionary tales and a mantra I’m sure many parents become broken records telling their kids. Even Disney’s Phineas and Ferb made a really good PSA “Rules of the Cyberspace Road” where Ferb knowledgeably tells kids, “The Internet is forever.” No matter how hard you try you just can’t make it clearer than that. Ask any celebrity who has tried to take back a Tweet, they just don’t go away.
There are so many stories of what happens online affecting people IRL, but still so many act as though what happens on the Internet stays there. Just to highlight a few:
And our latest blog which has stirred all the attention – A Tale of the Internet and Bad Decisions.
The real life implications of what happens online are endless and sadly some like Hope Witsell never recover from what happens on the Internet. Hope was a young lady whose story we brought you last February; Hope took her own life after a picture she had “sexted” was passed around school. Our hearts break for her and her family, what more could have been done to help her understand the consequences of what you do online?
Education is one of the keys, what you say online matters and can have serious consequences. Listed above are a variety of criminal activities, jurisdiction would determine the exact crime, but generally there is cyber bullying, stalking, fraud, robbery, sex crimes, extortion, production and distribution of child pornography.
When looking at A Tale of the Internet and Bad Decisions we use the Free Speech test found atCriminalDefense Lawyer by Nolo, this page specifies Michigan, but as we have no context for where the mother and baby are located so this works as a good example.
Your right to free speech is protected under the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution, however you must understand that this is a limited right. Speech that would pose a serious imminent threat to people or property may be legally limited by the state.
When it comes to bullying, you are not allowed to utter threats or engage in other abusive behaviors (conduct is also considered “speech” in this context) that pose an imminent threat to someone else. For example, threats to use a weapon are limited speech when the victim knows the bully actually has such a weapon and is nearby enough to make good on the threat.
But the line between a legitimate expression of opinion and seriously threatening speech is not always as clear and easy to draw as in these examples. For this reason, it is worth exploring a free speech defense, especially if your words or actions were ambiguous enough not to put a reasonable person in fear of harm.
So here’s the question were the words posted to Facebook with the picture of the mother and child an imminent threat? “Would you mind if I post this picture of your baby on a pedophile’s site?” followed by, “How about this one? I can link them to your profile too!” Would a reasonable person fear a real threat of harm and how do you define “nearby” in cyber space?
New York gets more specific on Cyber Bullying, included under the category of penal code 240.30 Aggravated Harassment in the second degree:
1. With the intent to harass another person, the actor either:
(a) communicates, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, by computer or any other electronic means, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of communication, a threat to cause physical harm to, or unlawful harm to the property of, such person, or a member of such person’s same family or household as defined in subdivision one of section 530.11 of the criminal procedure law, and the actor knows or reasonably should know that such communication will cause such person to reasonably fear harm to such person’s physical safety or property, or to the physical safety or property of a member of such person’s same family or household;
In the shoes of that Mom would you reasonably fear for your child’s personal safety?
Beyond the question of Cyber Bullying we find numerous questions about images and copyright on the Internet. Bitlaw.com has an excellent section on the Fair Use Doctrine. There are four factors, under the Copyright Act, used in determining whether use of a specific item would be considered “fair use”.
Important in this discussion is what are protected works vs unprotected works. From Bitlaw.Com, “To be protected by copyright, a work must contain at least a minimum amount of authorship in the form of original expression.” Original expression typically being discussed would be novels, songs, movies, other video productions, and works of art, all of which would be greatly affected by the fourth consideration above. In the question of “fair use” the Supreme Court has stated the fourth consideration the most important consideration in copyright infringement.
So now that we have an idea what constitutes a protected work and know that the affect on value is the top consideration, it is also important to understand how the first item, purpose and character of the use, affects the question of copyright. Generally reproduction for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, and research are not copyright infringements. This has been taken to cover most blogs and personal websites, however item 4 would have to be considered in relation to personal websites where there is financial gain from the copywritten work.
Finally comes the question of defamation. So what constitutes online defamation? Defamation is generally defined as a false, published statement that is injurious to the plaintiff’s reputation. When a statement of fact is made and it’s true then there is no claim to defamation. A good example would be a Yelp review, a customer posts a review of your restaurant claiming there was an infestation in the kitchen, so you sue them for defamation. This is where it gets tricky, it’s civil not criminal so the user does not have to prove there was an infestation, instead you have to prove there was no infestation and therefore that the statement was false.
Next you find the question of fact vs opinion; opinions are privileged under the law. A fact is considered a statement that can be proven true or false. An opinion is a matter of belief that cannot be proven one way or the other. For example, “John is a thief.” can be proven false by showing that John has never stolen anything. In contrast “John is a complete idiot.” is an opinion or “a pure opinion” as the meaning of idiot is subjective and one person’s idiot is not necessarily the next person’s idiot. Take a look a 19th century census records to get a hint at the fluid definition of the term idiot.
Defamation also does not apply in the case of a quote of one’s own words, even when you don’t like the opinion based on those words. Take the case of Lena Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl, where at least one “cease and desist” letter was received by a blogger / news outlet after they quoted portions of Ms. Dunham’s book and shared an opinion relating to those quotes.
The Internet is a complex landscape, made all the more tricky when you don’t stop to consider the consequences of your words. As much as we might all want to over complicate the issues at hand, it really is as simple as what Phineas & Ferb say in the PSA, “The Internet is forever.” and “If you wouldn’t do (say) it in person your shouldn’t do (say) it online!”
Few things drive me as crazy as insistent popups. Clearly some online marketing / web design companies are selling these as the best way to capture information on your audience, for both tracking and later marketing purposes. But lets not kid, it's the Internet and if your website annoys me I can find what I'm looking for somewhere else.
Take this popup for an example on a local realty website. It's absolutely maddening.
I was attempting to look at a home they have listed for sale when BAM this ad pops up. I glance around for an "X" when none is to be found I hit "ESC" but to no avail, I'm stuck with this irritating popup on my screen. I have two choices, sign in and give these people my personal information either directly or through one of my social media accounts, or close out of their website and go find the information somewhere else. And while I'm at it, make a mental note to never look for things on their website (and by extension never use their services) again. Guess which one I chose...
The very idea that you should demand a potential customer's information to allow them to view information on your website is absurd and while many people have become comfortable with just clicking the "f" to login via Facebook quite a few are far more savvy and not interested in this kind of forced marketing.
At the very least a smart online marketer is going to provide people a choice; that little "X" that allows people to decide if they want your advertising and in the end if they don't you haven't offended anyone. Because let's be real, had you not forced me to find the information on your listing elsewhere I wouldn't be writing this article right now...
We're using Wix as an example, but you could substitute a number of other big name Free website advertisers, like Web.com for a lot of this information. Where there's an important difference we'll include that as well.
We chose Wix because a client of ours was considering using their free service for a new website and wanted to know the true meaning of "Free"? For a little background this particular client is involved in writing and performing music.
In section 2.2 subsection 5 it gets more interesting. Here you agree to: "allow Wix to use in perpetuity, worldwide and free of charge, any version of your User Website (or any part thereof) for any of Wix's marketing and promotional activities, online and/or offline, and modify it as reasonably required for such purposes, and you waive any claims against Wix or anyone on it's behalf relating to any past, present or future moral rights, artists' rights, or any other similar rights worldwide that you may have in or to your User Website..." Ouch, well that explains where a portion of the "Free" goes; if Wix likes your website or how you put your content together they have the right to use it and your content for marketing and other promotional purposes. Harvard Law School has a section on Art Law that covers Artists's Rights and Moral Rights. The gist of the artists's rights is the law provides artists certain protection of their creations (intellectual property) whether the interest is economic, non-economic or personality rights. Moral rights include the right of attribution, the right to correct or withdraw a work previously disclosed to the public, and the right of respect of the work.
It is interesting that Wix has chosen to call out these specific rights for users to waive. Those creating and selling unique works would unlikely intentionally waive their intellectual property rights or their right of attribution.
Web.com has a similar paragraph, although they do not call for the user to waive their artists' or moral rights and it is not in perpetuity, at least not for it's general hosting packages. From Web.com, "You expressly grant to Web.com a non-exclusive, worldwide and royalty-free license to copy, display, use and transmit on and via the Internet the content that is submitted, stored, distributed or disseminated by you via the Hosting Services, including without limitation, trade or service marks, test, images, photographs, illustrations, graphics, audio clips, video clips, email or other messages...and revocable only upon termination of Hosting Services."
In section 2.3 you now find Wix's protection of their intellectual property, which they are obviously a lot more interested in protecting than yours, "You agree and undertake not to copy, modify, create derivative works of, download, adapt, reverse engineer, emulate, migrate to another service, translate, compile, decompile or disassemble the Wix Services (or any part thereof), any Content offered by Wix or Third Party Services for use and display within User Websites..." The important part here, is lets say you decide you like your website, but would like to work with a local website hosting provider, or perhaps the fees have grown too high with your once "Free" website and want to move it, per this section you have agreed not to "migrate to another service" or "copy" these services. In a nut shell you don't own your website and you may not own your domain name either. The www.yourcompany.com may actually be owned by the site builder company. Wix appears to have you purchase your domain name, while Web.com in part states, "Customer acknowledges and agrees that Web.com and/or an entity designated by Web.com will retain rights to the Domain Name, unless Customer had provided the Domain Name themselves for use with the Services."
Lastly in section 3.1 entitled Your Intellectual Property (this title is particularly funny or scary once you read the paragraph), you find that while you naturally own your intellectual property that's not very comforting as you are granting Wix a license to use your content (intellectual property) from now until perpetuity. "As between Wix and you, you shall own all intellectual property pertaining to your User Content, including to any designs, animations, videos, audio files, fonts, logos, illustrations, compositions, artworks, interfaces, text, literary works and any other materials created by you. You hereby grant Wix a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable and sublicensable right and license to use your User Content (in whole or in part) worldwide in order to provide you with the Wix Services..."
So what's the cost of this "Free" website?
While "Free" may seem like the easiest way to get a website, it's a far cry from actually being "Free" and in the long run could be far more costly than paying for a website.
When it comes to a website and protecting your brand and intellectual property there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First and foremost pay to own your domain name and make sure it's properly in your name. See our article about Best Practices When Registering a Domain Name for more info. Second if you want to use a site builder that's great, but avoid "Free" as it's clearly not, use a local provider like us, Top Speed Internet Service,who provides a wide variety of themes to use in a site builder, but has no desire to keep you hostage by owning your content, nor requiring rights to your intellectual property for our marketing. If you decide you'd like to have someone build your website, shop around, talk to a few designers and see who best understands your needs and desired outcomes for your website.
Late last year Google made an important change in their ranking system that has received relatively little coverage. Google has added to their search ranking algorithm a query to determine if a site is being served over HTTP or HTTPS. If a site is being served over HTTPS it ranks higher.
Here's an example of HTTP vs HTTPS:
Now I'm sure you're thinking - great I can see the "S" but what does it mean? HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, when you add the "S" you're adding Secure to the Protocol. Simply put the "S" means the site has been validated and adds a layer of encryption between your device and that website.
The additional security has 2 main purposes, the first is to verify you are communicating directly to the server you believe you are talking to; take your banking for example, as that is probably the most important secure connection you make on a regular basis. See the examples below of a secure bank connection and a spoofed bank website, that obviously does not have security.
The second website may look like Canada Trust, but is actually going to the URL microscopix.ch and as it is not who it claims to be does not have secure protocol.
The second purpose of the additional security is encrypting the communications (i.e. your username and password, etc) and ensuring that only the server you're sending to can read what you've sent.
In a release last year Google said, "we'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web." To that end they've added the HTTPS to their ranking algorithm to encourage all website owners to add an SSL Certificate to their sites.
This begs the next question, what kind of SSL Certificate does your site need?
You'll want to consider a few questions before deciding which SSL Certificate is right for your website:
If your site is adding an SSL Certificate just to add to your Google ranking, adding an Easy Trust SSL for $89 will be plenty. This kind of certificate uses Domain Validation, which is quick, but only verifies the purchaser against the whois information on file for the domain the certificate is being purchased for. If the information lines up then the Certificate is issued.
If you're collecting user information or payments you'll likely want a more robust SSL Certificate that uses more intensive validation, either Organization Validation which verifies the actual existence of the business, or Extended Validation which takes the longest, but takes the time to prove the brick and mortar existence of the business and verifies business details. Extended Validation is the type of validation banks have, see the example above of Bank of the West's website, notice it has a green bar and lock sign showing the highest level Certificate. These cost anywhere from $179 up into the thousands of dollars per Certificate.
Here are a few scenarios to help you decide which SSL Certificate is right for you:
*An example of sub-domain use would be in our case, where we have tsis.net as our main domain, but we also have store.tsis.net for selling computer equipment and acc.tsis.net for selling our web based services; a Wildcard SSL allows us to cover all 3 using a single SSL Certificate.
We saw it for the first time this weekend and because the devil is in the details, I mean in the Terms of Service, with Web.Com we just had to go look and see how this one will be biting unsuspecting business owners in the rump later.
For those who haven't seen the commercial click here. The gist of it is they'll build you a "free" Facebook page, get it likes and manage it. The "free" word is thrown in there a lot, but hopefully most of you realize it's not free, as in without money changing hands.
By appearance the page itself may be created at no charge, but everything after that is definitely charged for and, like other services created for business owners at Web.Com, is not owned as your intellectual property, but rather that ownership is retained by Web.Com.
Here are the clarifying bits out of their Terms of Service for "Facebook Boost and Custom Facebook Page Services":
Well there it is in a nutshell - it's not really free, you don't own it, and should you decide to no longer utilize their service it will be permanently and completely deleted. How many business owners just got duped by the offer for a "free" Facebook page? How long will they work to cultivate their social media presence and build followers only to one day figure out it's not really their Facebook page?
So you're a small business owner you'd really like to be on Facebook and eventually some of the other social media platforms, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc, but if Web.com isn't the way to do it, where do you go to find the right company to help you?
For starters stay local, it may be an online world, but it is still good to do business with someone you can meet face to face with. In every community there are numerous companies that work with businesses social presence every day. Some may specialize in social media management, some may do social media management along with website development. If you're struggling to find the right company for you, call a local computer repair shop they should be able to provide you several names of companies in the community to talk to.
So you originally signed up with a nationally recognized website hosting company; they offered you a great introductory deal and they've been "fine" ever since. Well, except when you have to call them for support, or when you wanted to add an email address but it was near impossible to get through, or when that introductory price ended, right?
What could be the benefits of moving your website to a local website hosting company?
So many reasons to host with a local provider! If you'd like to learn more about what it takes to move your website to Top Speed call or email us today!
For most, moving your website is a simple process that can save you money and frustration when you need support. There are exceptions, such as if you used a site builder company like Wix.com or Web.com to build you website. If that's the case, it's unlikely that you own your website or its content and should call us right away to find out your options.
Google has been conducting research into browser ad injectors and while the full report isn't going to be published until May 1st, they have released some interesting bits of information. Ad injectors are programs that insert ads or replace existing ads on webpages you are visiting.
The study is being conducted with researches at UC Berkeley and is based on a sample of 100 million page views from users using FireFox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.
Google released the following as a snipit of the upcoming report:
It's likely the snipit was released to let consumers know that Google is actively working to fight the growing issue.
Image from Google's Online Security Blog Report - "Out with unwanted ad injectors
Points of interest from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's speech at Silicon Flatirons Center in Boulder Colorado February 9, 2015.
It's great that Chairman Wheeler addresses "the lack of meaningful competition." That is a statement that we would agree with, however at the heart of Net Neutrality is what is the solution to allowing meaningful competition and what are the consequences of "fair and open" Internet? I would argue that's it's not terribly different from real health care reform - the answer to both? Less government, not more. And that's inclusive of government at all levels. State governments are where state health care mandates come from and many states prevent individuals form purchasing across state lines. One simple change - allow individuals from any state to purchase plans from any other state and suddenly you're not having to pay for services mandated by your state that you don't want, such as well-child care currently mandated in 31 states, if you don't have kids.
In the case of Net Neutrality, Chairman Wheeler's idea of increasing competition is summed up in part of his speech, "Many communities, including these two petitioners, have concluded that existing private sector broadband offerings are not meeting their needs and the only solution is to become directly involved in broadband deployment." By communities he's saying local government should become involved in broadband deployment. By implication saying that while these private sector companies spent millions to drag the fiber and install the equipment needed to provide these services they should be taken down a peg or two with "competition" from government.
This also skips the requirements many states already put on backbone providers. In Nevada backbone providers are already considered a public utility, ILEC/RBOC - Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier / Regional Bell Operating Carrier, and as such are regulated by the Nevada Public Utility Commission. In the next step down a company can file to become a CLEC, Competitive Local Exchange Carrier, and from there work to enter into expensive agreements with the ILECs in Nevada to resell across their lines. The ILEC is going to be the company that has made the capital investment, which Chairman Wheeler is so dismissive of, in order to bring these services to a given area. Like any other business they are not going to bring it to areas where they cannot recoup their investment, hence the reason why many rural areas do not have the same level of service as dense metropolitan areas.
The CLECs have a larger stake in the equation than local ISPs, as they are also filed as utilities with the Nevada Public Utility Commission and have entered into agreements with the ILECs usually with an initial investment of at least $10,000 per agreement. Next you have the local ISPs, now this is where competition has been really cut down in the last 10 years and nothing about Chairman Wheeler's proposal does anything to help this market sector. From our perspective this market sector is the place to really expand competition and service. We get countless calls everyday from individuals looking to get away from Charter and AT&T and work with a local ISP again.
Chairman Wheeler also briefly gives lip service to wireless service providers, "Internet protections would apply equally to both wired and wireless networks...", many of whom have local owners who are looking to help service the under served with their technology. Wireless technology, especially in our area has taken hold due to the Internet pits of despair we have in Northern Nevada, such as Greg street in Sparks, the Virginia Highlands, or Washoe Valley. Wireless providers have come in and strategically placed equipment to service these specific areas first, knowing how desperately needed service is in those areas and from there they've built their businesses, expanded their equipment and service offerings. Now there's competition and good old American industrialism at work. See a problem, create a service and thereby a business to address the problem.
In reality nothing about Chairman Wheeler's proposal, per his statement in Boulder, does anything to increase any market segment other than government, by having consumers get service from "municipal providers".
Chairman Wheeler goes on to discuss what he refers to as "open Internet". He refers in vague terms to "paid prioritization, blocking, and throttling." As well as "last-mile tactics" which while these terms sound flashy he puts no substance behind what he means as certain "last-mile tactics", as Chairman Wheeler so glibly calls them, are necessary in delivering high quality service. Call quality when using VoIP for instance relies heavily on prioritization which takes place in the "last-mile".
Another point that is completely overlooked by Chairman Wheeler when he says that there is to be no prioritization or blocking of traffic and all traffic must be treated the same, what happens when there is DDoS attack? Or what about Spam Filtering? Once an ISP is required to treat all traffic the same, as soon as a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack starts and all those 15 million infected computers start attacking a single target, causing multiple 10-GigE connects to fill up so now no one can navigate the Internet there's nothing an ISP can do because they have to treat all traffic the same. In a "fair and open" Internet the traffic from the cyber attack is just as important as end user's web surfing.
I'm also sure the spammer would tell you that his email is just as important to make it to the recipient as Aunt Estelle's old family recipe, but as of right now all he can do is stomp his foot and say it's just not fair that that horrible ISP blocked it from getting to Debbie. But here comes Chairman Wheeler addressing the lack of fairness on the Internet and soon that spammer's emails will have to be treated as equals and have to be delivered to Debbie, who's email will now fill up with junk and malicious spam.
Chairman Wheeler also discusses new laws / regulations while glossing over what kind of bureaucracy it will take to make it happen: allowing content companies to file a complaint with the FCC allowing the Commission to investigate the ISP. While not clearly spelled out this has left the industry wondering what all will come down on ISPs with the FCC now regulating them? Paperwork? Required reporting? Specific Regulations? In short more bureaucracy.
Every business owner is aware of privacy concerns for their clients, most states, Nevada included, have laws on the books about what has to be done when a business discovers a client's private information has been accidentally disclosed, lost, or otherwise accessed. Certain industries currently have additional federal regulations on top of state regulations such as the medical industry's ePHI (electronic Protected Health Information) regulations. So when Chairman Wheeler said, "...it is so fundamentally important that we protect privacy." it jumps out as another opportunity for additional regulations similar to ePHI.
In the end what this debate boils down to is are you a Federalist who wants government involved in all aspects of your life and have no issues with purchasing your Internet connectivity from Washoe County rather than a local business or are you an Anti-Federalist who wants to see business stay in the hands of private enterprise and would rather pay John next door who owns an ISP for your Internet connectivity.
Welcome to your next parental nightmare! Boys at one local Reno high school, are reportedly coaxing topless photographs out of high school girls then trading and collecting them like baseball cards. This information has been brought to us by a high school student's parent who says her son informed her of the trading game. It is unclear if the school's administration is aware this game is going on.
As parents we know that sexting is a serious problem and do the best we can to dissuade girls from turning themselves from young women into mere sex objects, but this account takes the issue to a level only seen in a handful of cases, like the Vermont Sexting Ring. Not only are these girls sharing naked photographs with one boy, possibly believing that he will keep it to himself, they are literally sharing it with most of the boys in the school and depending on the true extent of this game perhaps across multiple local high schools.
This is hardly the first case of mass sharing of sexually explicit images between teenagers, but what neither girls nor boys seem to understand are the consequences that can come down on them for this behavior. There are numerous charges that can be, and in various jurisdictions have been, levied against those participating that could them cause harm for years to come:
While all states have laws in regards to child pornography, there are also federal laws which speak directly to the involvement of the Internet in these cases, "...federal jurisdiction almost always applies when the Internet is used to commit a child pornography violation." So emailing that picture a boy received to a couple of friends would be distribution of child pornography using the Internet.
From the US DOJ website in discussing the consequences of sexting:
"Youth who sext may face charges of producing, possessing, and / or distributing child pornography. For example, if Sue takes a nude picture of herself and sends it to John, she may be charged with the production and distribution of child pornography. If John forwards the image to Tim, John may be charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography. As long as the image circulates, anyone with it may face charges."
Unlike many states the federal laws do not make exceptions for minor's "sexting". The reason there is no exception and really shouldn't be an exception at the state level, is consider the above scenario, now Tim has the picture, Tim posts it to Facebook where it is likely reported and taken down quickly, or Twitter where pornography is not against the terms of service, so it takes longer to be removed as it first has to be reported as child pornography. How many pedophiles were trolling the Internet looking for pictures just like Sue's while the reporting/ removal process was going on, and now that they've saved her nude picture, how many other pedophiles to you think they'll be sharing it with? Or worse how many pedophiles are now trying to learn more about Sue to reach out to her themselves?
The consequences for this lapse in judgement could go on for years and for some they may struggle to ever recover from one bad decision. Sadly a number of kids have gone so far as to take their own lives after sexting has gone wrong. Take 13 year old Hope Witsell who had "sexted" a picture to her boyfriend. Another girl from her school "got her hands on the photo" and send to 6 other schools in the area. A few months after the picture was made public Hope took her own life.
Talk to you kids about the potential consequences for participating in anyway with the sharing of child pornography.
On the heels of our recent story about the pseudo anonymity on the Internet and the general belief that you can do / get away with almost anything on the Internet, comes a story from Pennsylvania and a 14 year old boy who's alter ego's name is Jessica Carabello.
Whether she was attractive or not she was peddling a tantalizing offer to local Tobyhanna boys, she'd send them nude pictures of herself if they would send her their nude pictures. It's a game as old as time - I'll show you mine if you show me yours - and it is reported to have worked on 48 local boys.
A 14 year old in possession of naked pictures of 48 other local boys has plenty of opportunity to cause trouble for those boys, bullying, harassment and embarrassment come to mind first. However in this case the 14 year old went farther in what Monroe County Detective Brian Webbe referred to as having taken, "planning and premeditation to get accomplished."
"The suspect began to extort them (those who had sent him nude pictures), made threats if you don't send me more nude photos I'll post the ones online you already sent me. Was asking for gift cards and things of that nature," said Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Christopher Wagner. Detectives were able to use the Jessica Carabello Facebook account to track down the user behind the persona. The name on the account has now been changed to Ashley Mcgrover, although the original name still appears in the URL /jessica.carabello.9.
Looking over some of the friends on the Jessica Carabello / Ashley Mcgrover page it appears some were likely easier to convince to share nude photos than others.
(Perhaps a little extra schooling should be on his agenda so he can figure out which witch/which actually makes this a coherent sentence.)
The scam began to unravel in November when parents of a boy at Pocono Mountain West Junior High School went to police and told them a girl who their son believed was his age was attempting to extort him online. The 14 year old suspect's name is not being released due to his age; he was taken into custody last week and will face multiple charges in juvenile court.
This is hardly the first case of someone pretending to be someone else to serve one purpose or another online. What seems to be a larger issue is the likelihood that someone believes the person on the other end of the connection is being honest.
Take for example a story, from years ago, of several young men who were bored one day so they setup a website that yelled "Hey everybody I'm looking at porn!" immediately upon accessing it. Those young men snagged a picture of an attractive woman and began entering chat rooms to lure men to their webpage. We'll just say that this activity had them amused for hours, receiving replies back like, "Are you trying to get me fired?" and "My Mom heard that!".
The lesson here? First the chances that you're talking to who you think you're talking to are not good, unless you know them in real life. And second and more important Stop sending naked pictures of yourself around the Internet!
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