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Illegal Activity - Ethics Forum

About Illegal Activity

Previous Entry Illegal Activity Jan. 10th, 2007 @ 12:12 pm Next Entry
If you found evidence of illegal activity on Livejournal, and were able to locate the person or persons involved, would you report it?

I feel ethically torn because there are certain issues that I would not report (drug use, going AWOL), and certain issues that I would report immediately (molesting of children, child porn, murder, etc.) The issue that I am comptemplating falls more towards the immediately side, however, if the accusations are false, and the media finds it, that person could be ruined in his/her small town.

Is LiveJournal, and the Internet, a free for all where everyone can say what they want, regardless of legality and prosecution? Or are there boundaries where someone can be prosecuted if they cross them?
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Date:January 10th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
As I understand it, anything you publish on the internet, whether in some private domain or not, is open to scrutiny by the law. There have been numerous cases in the news lately about kids threatening to blow up schools and these kids were reported and prosecuted.
As to your legal responsibility to report anything, the only thing I can think of is if you were a mandated reporter for child abuse (teachers, day care, hospital personnel, etc.). Otherwise, just as in regular instances, you are not bound to report anything. But, neither may you obstruct the pursuit of information in regards to the alleged crimes.
Morally and ethically...my question to you would be "why is one crime less reportable than others". By your list of activities that you would or wouldn't report, I can see a leaning towards victimless crimes not being reported.
Once you start making these distinctions, though, you have to make the list inclusive. You should have defined for yourself from the very start which crimes you would or would not report. Otherwise, taking it on a case by case basis, you would be leaving your judgment open to too many subjective issues ranging from the alleged criminal's looks to their class to the status of their vicims...
For instance, let's say a blue collar worker in a factory finds a way to embezzle thousands of dollars from the very top-of-the-chain bosses who wouldn't notice it anyway because his child needs heart surgery. And in the very same day of reading your posts you see an entry about a very wealthy CEO who has raided his bottom-line workers' pension fund because he wants a second house in Aruba. Which one do you report?
Same crime but in the first case it has you wondering about the worthiness of the victims.
I am almost 50. Through many years of thinking this stuff through, I have decided for myself that a crime is a crime is a crime. It is up to the judges and attorneys and juries to decide how bad the crime was or what the punishment should be. My job as a citizen of society is to report all crimes or to report no crimes. Otherwise the right and wrong of the world is skewed according to my definitions. This is not so bad for me...but if everyone thought this way...well we would be right where we are today, I suppose. In an ethical quagmire.
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Date:January 10th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)
I would say that ethically it can get complicated, but my first practical question is this:

Is someone being hurt actively, continually, or in the near future? If so then it seems worthy of reporting the suspicion. Otherwise I guess I would consider the source and the threat level and judge on a case by case basis.

Not the most ethical or philospohical answer, perhaps, but there it is.
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Date:January 10th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
"Someone" is the issue :-) The "someone" in question is a horse. Does it make a difference?
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Date:January 10th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
Well... good question.
I guess my first instinct would be to report cruelty to animals, since, like children, they cannot speak for themselves. If the accused perp is innocent, one has to hope they will be exonerated by the authorities.

Then again if the source is a jilted ex or someone with an axe to grind, I might see if there is another source first.
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Date:January 15th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)


Ethically, if you can't support and care for an animal, give the animal to someone who can. However, I don't think there is anyway to report animal abuse for a couple of reasons. Animal cruelty laws change from location to location (state to state or country to country). Therefore no certainty can exist without further proof besides hearsay. Which is, I believe, what a journal entry or internet posting becomes. In general, even for the kids who posted the "I'm gonna blow up my school" on the net, this only becomes supporting evidence in the case. There had to be actual conversations and some sort of obvious action in order to prosecute. That's the freedom of speech for you there.

On the flip side, if you suspect abuse of child(ren) or adults, for that matter, the net is still a viable source. However, first it gets reported to the system itself (for example, Live Journal) which has some legal responsibility on content, despite it being a user forum. The system then makes the call. This prevents a certain number of accidents. For example, nude pictures of 16 year olds was not illegal in England or Germany, but is considered child pornography in the United States. So printing out a picture of a naked 16 year old girl, regardless of her nationality, and carrying it around in your car can cause you to be charged with possession of child porn.

I don't know if that helps or not, I'm rather tired, and my sentences are possibly messed up, but I hope I got the general idea across.

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