BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Social media lets you vent to your friends—but it’s also a powerful avenue to exploit, threaten and commit crimes.
“Where we may have an investigation, where we may need to look at a suspect, they usually have a Facebook page, or usually have an Instagram page and we’re able to find them on line, find additional information about that specific person," says Jay Houston, Cyber Crimes Investigator for the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. "Where there is a con to that side of it is when people have for example a school threat. When people are sharing this information repeatedly over and over and over again, and we cannot find the initial source of it.”
Social media also helps law enforcement get the word out quickly about wanted criminals or missing children. But our urgency to share those posts can get you in trouble, like a viral video of an alleged child pornography victim that circulated on Facebook. Sharing it was actually breaking the law and could make it harder to track the suspect.
“We have to go through every one of those and look at it and do our investigation which is backlogging now our investigation of true child predators out there who are actually seeking children on line,” Houston explained.
Apps, and social media sites leave a digital fingerprint, and even if you’re sharing something you think is helping, you may only be giving yourself a bad online reputation for years to come.
“As for children its against the law," Houston warns. "When I say children, the law says under the age of 18 sexually explicit photos and that is a felony. The punishment is 5 years to 40 years in prison per image. The fine is $50,000 to $500,000 dollars fine per image. That’s not the worse part. The worse part is by federal, by the state law, you have to register as a sex offender. Now part of registering as a sex offender is you have to for the rest of our life.”
Houston also warns sharing a screen shot of threats can make it appear the threat is coming from you, and you could find yourself answering questions or facing charges.