Billy Watkins of The Clarion-Ledger concocts a fear story today seemingly out of thin air, linking the murder of the Illinois woman to her myspace page. Well, maybe. Could be. Might be connected. He starts out by telling us that "authorities" are "wondering" if there is a connection between her murder and her blog. He then proceeds to reveal through quotes that he actually, er, asked the question and the "authorities"—the FBI—said he didn't have "enough information" to comment, but conceded the obvious that it "could have." Mr. Watkins and the Ledge editors then proceed to build a whole scare story around this answer, filled with ominous warnings about putting your pictures online and such. Argh; really bad journalism, folks, to concoct such a premise. If you want to do a (smarter) piece about online safety, fine. But such sensationalism really bites. Here's an excerpt, with emphasis added by me:
The recovery last week of the remains of a 21-year-old Illinois State University student, Olamide Adeyooye, in a burned out chicken house in Newton County has authorities wondering if her online blog — which included her picture and where she worked — played a part in her abduction. Her last blog, or online journal on http://www.myspace.com, was posted Oct. 13. She was reported missing two days later when she didn't show up for her classes or her job as a waitress.
"I don't have enough information to comment on the case," says Edward Parmelee, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cyber crime squad in Jackson. "But (her blog) certainly could have been a factor. [...]
Parmelee and Mahaffey suggest that bloggers not include pictures of themselves or any personal information such as where they work, their home address or phone number.
"It doesn't take but a few bits of information for a stalker to piece together a puzzle and figure out who you are and where you are," Parmelee says.
Tate Nations, 29, of Jackson is a blogger. "I've thought about how much personal information I should put on there, and I'm pretty careful," he says. "You can barely get my name from mine, and I never include stuff like where I'm going to be at a certain time. Mine is usually about stuff I've done in the past."
Also, this quote made me roll my eyes:
Adds Robert Mahaffey, criminal investigator for the Mississippi Attorney General's cyber crime unit: "The Internet is the wild, wild West of the 21st century, and it should be viewed that way."
What the hay does "wild, wild West of the 21st century" mean?? How in hell should one view something as a meaningless sound bite?
This story is so, so bad. How in the world did that dumb quote get past an editor? Oh yes, this is the Ledge. Forgot for a moment. Mississippians don't deserve anything beyond dumb sound bites. Right.
Yeah. This is a painfully bad piece of writing.
Well, guess we better saddle up, Donna; it's time to rustle us some steers and get out of Dodge before the constable sees that thar poster.
I've been on the online world since I was 12 years old, and I'm not all that scared of it.
Are women more vulnerable? Well, I hear online safety experts say all the time: "Use a gender-neutral alias. Never post your photo," and I think of the Taliban and all their burqas that also hid gender and identity. Feminists call this the "protection racket," and that's exactly what it is: To sacrifice power, autonomy, and public influence, to stay under the protective arms of your fathers and husbands...or else. Ewww.
But yeah, that said, women are more vulnerable. Men don't get as many stalkers. So it pays to be sensible--"Blog Entry 7.31.03: I really love sitting alone on the bench in Smith Park every Tuesday morning at 2am reading T.S. Eliot. It really loosens me up, which is important given my high-stress career as a swimsuit model."--but whenever people hide to protect themselves, they're ceding power to somebody. It's a transaction. And people should be able to choose whether or not to make that transaction. Generally speaking, I choose not.
But there are some transactions I do choose to make. A friend of mine signs his home address and phone number at the end of every email; I'd never do that.
- Tom Head
thats what i was doing with my previous name, and still it is just as ambiguous as the last. But I am convinced that if i was murdered murdered someone or ran for election the first thing people would look at would be "blogs" that I was linked to. If that were the case there would never be any links to the killer and i never tell the specifics of an event. I am not afraid of being murdered by the people who are on my "blog ring" because I don't associate, or so i think, with anyone that would seem freaky enough to kill me. Although some of my belhaven and JFP member would break the 1st level of suspicion they would eventually be realeased.
It seems to be a trend of journalist whether part of a news magazine on TV, or our fine local writing for food columnists like the ledge. As soon as someone is found dead they should ask the friends for the blog that they participated in. Mystery solved we don't even need Dr. Lecter or cowboy melton to figure this thing out. Everything we need to solve the case is their on the screen.
"today I wore white after labor day and it didn't match my yellow shoes." She was found dead in yellow shoes...hmmmm..says frank melton... the killer must be someone on the internet. Brilliant that significantly reduces the field of possibilities.
Now for the other 250 million people.
I have been a blogger for several years now. I have run about five in total, with three being the highest I was posting on at a time.
One blog had a readership of several thousand a day. That freaked me out, a little.
In all that time I had ONE guy that I got worried enough about to have someone run a check on him. There were scary emails and postings to my blog that really began to let me know this guy had multiple mentall illnesses.
I sent ONE cease and desist email and then never answered another one. It lasted for over six months with his writing me about a relationship he seemed to think we had in his head. In the end, everyone I knew knew about the guy...even a lawyer and a law enforcement officer.
This has never stopped me from wanting to blog. Blogs have changed the world of communication. They have changed how this country does business, and lately, they have changed politics. Of course there are going to be people who warn you off. Of course there are going to be people on the losing end of the constant free flow of communication.
Now that my little inspirational speech on blogs is done...there are a few things that people can do to stay safe...Namely, Don't be stupid.
People should just use common sense. This guy is one reason that I am very careful now about mentioning where I will be going at any given time. I always write about things AFTER the fact.
There are simple rules that anyone who has a modicum of sense shoud follow with having a blog. I'm not frightened of posting my picture, but this is only because I have a strange face that isn't going to look like one single picture I take if you see me in person. ;)
I dislike articles like this that are just around to put fear into our hearts.
- Lori G