Friday, May 30, 2014

Getting fined for posts on Facebook? Could be the wave of the future

A woman living in suburban Bolingbrook could be the first of many who will face fines because they couldn’t control what they decided to post about themselves on Facebook.

Actually, in this instance, the woman won’t face a fine because officials with the Will County Forest Preserve District decided to rescind the ticket they initially issued her – one that called for a $50 fine.

BUT THE FACT that someone reading a Facebook page who was in a position of authority decided that something posted there could be worthy of some form of discipline could be something we see more of.

And it’s likely that in the future, some official won’t back down from insisting on collecting a fine. Some municipality is bound to think they need the money badly enough to want to have someone scour through Facebook in search of something that could hint at a violation.

One that needs to be punished!

“Big Brother” really is watching you! Even all the stupid, trivial things you elect to post on your Facebook account page.

PERSONALLY, I ONLY use Facebook to promote this weblog and its sister site. Anybody reading my page is only going to get tidbits about what is published here. Along with the occasional comment my aunts in the greater Minneapolis, Minn., area decide to post.

Although I suppose someone offended by my opinion could try to harass me in the same way. Not that I’m overly concerned about what some anonymous crank thinks of what I choose to write.

But the larger lesson is that Facebook does put our comments out there to a wide audience – many of whom are people we don’t know. That’s kind of the whole point of the concept – which is why I don’t post much personal material beyond what I write here.

It’s kind of like asking the local police to prod in your life, which is what happened to the Bolingbrook woman.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Thursday now the woman got a $50 ticket on May 20 because of a comment she posted on a page related to the Whalon Lake Dog Park in Bolingbrook.

There have been problems at the dog park related to “kennel cough” being passed around area dogs. The woman, according to the Tribune, posted a comment saying she hadn’t bought a permit to use the dog park this year, but wrote it in a vague way that could be interpreted to say she had used the park.

One forest preserve district read the comment, passed it along to a superior, and then the ticket was issued.

It seems the woman hasn’t been at the dog park this year, so the ticket for using the dog park without a permit turned out to be premature.

THE DISTRICT’S POLICE department said it is reviewing its policies, while saying it does not plan to routinely monitor social media accounts. They also say there are no plans to discipline the officer who issued the citation, or any others involved, because they tell the Tribune there were “good intentions” involved.

But what happens when we get a governmental entity that isn’t quite so understanding about the concept of social media and a person’s desire to express themselves?

Will we someday get overzealous officials who view social media comments the same way they now view traffic violations – as something to be routed out in great numbers so that citations can be issued and fines can be collected.

People should keep this in mind, and perhaps learn to be overly precise in what they write. Because even though they think they’re writing for a select audience of like-minded people, other people are reading. And reacting.


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