Sunday, January 31, 2010

Facebook Twist: Anti-social networking

The Times Online reports that Colin Gunn, a notorious British godfather, has had free access to the internet, and has been using it to intimidate and terrorize via Facebook. He claims to have been given permission for it by prison officials. The suspicion is that they gave him access fearing refusal would be called a human rights violation. On the face of it, this seems silly, but it was only last June that the French version of the Supreme Court declared Internet access to be a fundamental human right. I'm sure they never intended for convicted felons to be able to access the internet from prison and continue to run their gangs. That is exactly what Gunn did, using his Facebook account to send intimidating messges, such as:
“It’s good to have an outlet to let you know how I am, some of you will be in for a good slagging, some have let me down badly, and will be named and shamed, f****** rats.”

Such an endearing character.

This actually isn't a post against Facebook. Facebook had no control over this, and probably shouldn't. The problem here is the idea that internet use is a "human right." If it is any kind of right at all, it is a citizens right, and like many other citizens rights, can be lost once you are convicted of a crime. Matt Asay makes some good points on the subject in his article, "Is Internet access a 'fundamental right'?" from May of last year. As Matt points out, there are rights and responsibilities. It's important not to confuse the two.