NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

August 19, 2013

Facebook follies

Facebook has been on the scene for almost a decade, followed by dozens of other social media sites, including Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. And still people don’t learn rule No. 1 — nothing you put online is private.

Sometimes that forgetfulness is a boon to police, who often use criminals’ own social media posts to track them down, as in a recent case where a suspected shoplifter taunted Richmond, Ky., police on the department’s Facebook page.

“Catch me if you can and I got mad pants,” wrote the suspected shoplifter, 26-year-old Christina Bratcher. Richmond police aren’t sure what “mad pants” are (and neither are we), but they were able to track down and arrest Bratcher, thanks to her posting.

Sometimes, however, even the most innocuous of postings can lead to trouble, as a Salem woman learned recently. The Daniels Street mother made her 5-year-old son a birthday smoothie, laced with ginger ale. She “garnished the drink with a strawberry ... and told her son it was a cocktail to celebrate his birth,” according to a police report.

She recorded the event and put it on Facebook, where it was seen by about 500 Facebook friends. One of those “friends” thought the woman was letting her son drink alcohol and called the police. A cute birthday ritual, shared through the sometimes warped lens of social media, led to a visit from the police.

Police, of course, found no evidence that the woman served her son alcohol, and they advised her to be more watchful about what she posts on Facebook.

That’s good advice for us all.

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