Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It is always someone else's fault

This story really disturbs me. And for a number of reasons. (I'll wait. Go ahead and read it.) Okay, now that you read it, I'll pretend you havent and tell you the whole story all over again...

Alright, so a dumb 13 year old kid (and I say dumb only because all 13 year old kids are dumb... and that includes me at that age) gets her feelings hurt and commits suicide. Thats terrible. I understand. And her parents feel awful. I get it. And she commits suicide (supposedly) because someone said "this world would be better off without you." And the person that said that -- as inappropriate as it was -- was an idiotic 49 year old neighbor. Insensitive? Yes. Illegal? Prosecutable? I dont think so.

Now, is it just me, or is there something odd here? Or rather... many somethings odd.

First off, I have to take the "sticks and stones" defense here. Just because someone insults you does NOT mean they are directly responsible for your death. Oh I understand that if you are black and the Klan marches on your front yard saying "I am going to kill you" that you feel threatened. But this was not a threat. It was an insult. Shouldn't someone have taught the child the "sticks and stones" principle?

Where is the parental responsibility here? If this child was so awkward and fragile, why in the world would she ever be left alone anywhere? In particular on the interwebs -- where the world is still pretty much the wild wild west. If you really think MySpace is your babysitter... you have some painful life lessons to learn.

And notice what she is being prosecuted for here. They could not prosecute her in her own state as ... well any idiot can tell you there was not a crime committed. So the Federal government is going to prosecute her for computer fraud. Really? I really think this law was not intended to be a "play well with the other kids" law. I think it was actually meant to protect people from... well fraud. If I call you an idiot, I did not commit fraud. If I call you an idiot using a pseudonym, I still did not commit fraud.

In reality she is being charged for not reading that irritating box of stuff that every web site presents you. You know the one. Its a tiny 2 inch high box with a scrollbar and 18 pages of legalese in it. Tell me honestly: who reads that stuff? I guarantee you no one does. Read one some day.... or better yet get a lawyer to read one. They can be really scary. Facebook has (or did have) language saying they had the right to investigate anything about you forever and ever -- even if you canceled your account. Microsoft used to (maybe still does) put in language saying it was okay for them to install spyware and poke all over your computer. Worse yet, I can assure you that in a given day you probably have committed several prosecutable offenses just by surfing the web or posting an opinion. I have even seen a photographer's web site that had a pop-up that said something to the effect that storing the photos on this site was illegal. This was a pop-up that came up after my browser had already read the photo and put it in cache. Oops. Busted.

So in essence, a grieving parent is looking for someone to blame. Sometimes bad things just happen. Sometimes parents don't do enough to keep them from happening.

Dont say anything to anyone. You might be responsible for their actions later.

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