The internet opens up possibilities. It creates potentialities that could not exist, and in some cases should not exist, otherwise. In the case of sex, the internet has made the fantasies of the wild and sometimes dangerous parts of our minds something that can be viewed outwardly and interacted with frequently. It can be argued that sexual urges can be satisfied more readily via the web than in the physical world. While this affords individuals an opportunity to remain anonymous (generally speaking anyway) and safe while feeding their fantasies in private, this also creates a situation wherein great harm can be caused. The internet is a tool and like any tool, it can be used properly or abused. As regards sex offenders, the internet offers temptations that they can’t seem to resist and a medium to harm greater numbers of children while hiding in plain sight.
Recently, there has been an alarming trend of repeat offenders utilizing social networks and the web in general to prey upon their victims. According to a BBC news report this spring, a UK man used Facebook to contact and meet up with a young girl under the false identity of a handsome man her age. The image and info he provided was entirely false. He used the excuse of being the young man’s father when he picked her up to get her in the car and then drove her to a secluded area where he raped and suffocated her. The man had previous convictions for rape and sexual abuse. In fact, he had been involved in cases since he was 15. He served time starting in 1996 for raping two prostitutes at knife point and yet, he was able to use the internet to commit another crime fully undetected.
The question here is not the obvious one. It may seem like the logical reaction is to make the internet safer, to regulate, dictate, and monitor every move to ensure that this never happens. But I say those measures become sorely reactionary and don’t solve the root of the issue. In fact, that would create new problems instead. What should be attended to is the rights of those who have committed such crimes. A certain degree of privacy has been forfeited when an individual is convicted of a sexual offense and this should be exploited. Sexual offenders should be monitored heavily when using any internet connection and be subject to random observation and search. Access to hard drives and social networking accounts should be granted with probable cause for authorities. IP addresses should also be mandatorily monitored for activity if sufficient evidence shows probable cause. Finally, all accounts for any social network should be registered by the offender with authorities with stiff penalties for failure to register.
As stated earlier, the tool is not the problem. The abuser of the medium is at fault and should be held accountable. While improving the tool is important on the whole, only by killing the root of the weed can the garden be restored. This girl would be alive today if we relied on law enforcement rather than a social network to monitor activities and investigate its users. Facebook is not responsible for sex offenders. Society and sickness is responsible for sex offenders and its up to our enforcement agencies to protect us from them and ourselves.
We live in a world where technology grows and expands at a rate that creates widespread obsolescence among organic matter. Humans just aren’t as necessary as they once were. Temptation is not easy to avoid. It lies at our fingertips. You can use a phone that fits in your pocket to pull up adult films for free anywhere you are faster than your ability to think your decision through. The gratification is immediate. We are allowed to act on passion alone regardless of how sick the urge may be. When we have made our hands this idle, should we be surprised when they do the Devil’s work?