Facebook Monitors Your Posts and Chats To Catch Sexual Predators

Facebook Monitors Your Posts and Chats To Catch Sexual Predators

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Ever wonder if Facebook is reading your posts? Well, it is—or, its computers are, at least. And if you say the wrong thing, you could be locked up.

That’s the takeaway from a recent Reuters article, which recounted a case in which Facebook’s software detected a man in his thirties allegedly trying to set up a meeting with a 13-year-old Florida girl for sex. From Reuters:

Facebook’s extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police.

Officers took control of the teenager’s computer and arrested the man the next day, said Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.

Facebook’s chief security officer told Reuters that the company’s monitoring software uses actual chats that led to sexual assaults to predict when another might occur. This is eerily similar to the hypothetical software I discussed in an article last month on whether police could arrest people based on suspicious-looking Google searches. I noted in the piece that while the idea might sound far-fetched, the technology already exists, and it might even be legal.

In Facebook’s case, the scanning hasn’t stirred outrage—probably because it seems to be focused on catching sexual predators. There are two reasons why online predators make sense as an initial target for automatic-monitoring algorithms. First, soliciting sex with a minor on the Internet is a crime in itself, not just a prelude to a crime (like, say, searching Google for ways to murder someone in their sleep). And second, sexual predators are unlikely to elicit much sympathy, so the public is more likely to tolerate intrusive means of nabbing them. Facebook is fighting creepy with creepy.

The key to the technology’s success—from a public-opinion standpoint, and possibly from a legal standpoint—is avoiding false positives. Arresting an innocent person based on a Facebook chat would surely cause controversy. So according to the Reuters piece, Facebook dials down the algorithm’s sensitivity, to minimize the chances of this happening.

It seems clear that this technology has the potential to do some good. But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it represents a further erosion of our online privacy, one more serious than selling our personal information to advertisers.

How to Make a Magical Focus Board

How to Make a Magical Focus Board

Author: Deborah

A focus board has been called a lot of different things in a lot of different places. The (in) famous Secret calls it a Vision board. A lot has been made of The Secret‘s many flaws and issues. As Kathy Griffin said when her assistants made focus boards and then attributed her recent uprising in success to said boards, “I’m so sure it was the two of you and your Secret boards that did this, not, like, my many years of constant work.” So besides taking away that you should never get into a sweat lodge with these people*, as my friend and fellow blogger Gordon said, visualization is not enough.

On his blog RuneSoup.com, he calls it a success map. A focus board is not a replacement for solid magical spell work, which should include consistent mundane work, consistent magical work, divination, reachable goals and regular progress check-ins to ensure that what you’re doing is working and you’re not inadvertently missing the forest for the trees. But what a focus board will do is keep your eye on the prize and in my opinion, that’s the real purpose in having one.

You might be easily distracted like myself and get sidetracked from all the important things you’re actually supposed to be doing and instead watch back to back episodes of Bridezillas in your pajamas and/or drinking too many French Greyhounds and getting sucked into Facebook for nine million hours. It’s easy to get completely and utterly off track.

True confession time, I call mine a “serial killer” board. This is not due to aspiring to become a serial killer or advocating for others to become serial killers but because I watch a lot of crime dramas and inevitably if a fictional serial killer is involved on one of my shows, they tend to have a board that resembles a focus board, even on GossipGirl when it was just a run-of-the-mill single white female stalking problem. Juliet still had the Miss Martha level of organization and where-with-all to be sure to have a board neatly outlining all her plotting against poor Serena VanderWoodsen.

For some reason on television or in a movie, a serial killer always has an extremely high level of organizational skills even though they are also completely unhinged. Personally, I attribute that to word count issues for writers and a team of television writers who would like to hold onto their jobs as long as possible by making the main ‘big bad’ hang around for as long as possible, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. But yeah, while my board is a very benign corkboard with pictures with scrapbook cut edges, pink yarn and a font with hearts in it, I can’t help but think about the crime procedural shows I watch, which gives merit to the argument that television does rot your brain though admittedly no real desire to do anything about it.

Anyway. For an example as to how to make sure you’re approaching your goals holistically, I’m working to bring more money in my life by mundanely working on my freelance writing career as well as a small Internet crafting business. Magically, I have a honey jar that I work with in the hoodoo tradition as well as some Feng-Shui work I do. I constantly make sure I’m working with my honey jar by inscribing words and symbols into candles I burn on it weekly and I make sure to keep my eyes open for new writing opportunities in various places. But, as I’ve said, I get distracted. So when I find myself getting into a massive Twittering frenzy, talking about things that have nothing to do with work, a quick glance to my focus board in my office reminds me when I see a picture of a typewriter and the word “Create” to get back to making sure I’m following through on my work mundanely.

Magically speaking, it gives your subconscious something to focus on to bring about things you would like in your life. I wanted more serenity and a yoga practice, randomly a few days after making my board I noticed a local yoga studio and got up the courage to email the owner to ask about a “work/trade” agreement where I would trade her administrative work for yoga classes. After a very successful interview (and I made sure to do a charm so I was charming) , we’re hammering out the details for the work/trade.

How to Make a Focus Board of Your Very Own

1. First, think about what you’re trying to accomplish in your life. For me I started by thinking of words because my brain sees words before pictures. My words are: Aspire, Create, Live, Serenity, Serve and Want.

2. Now find pictures that you feel are good representations of what you’re trying to accomplish. Some examples of my pictures include candles, a bank vault and the Eiffel Tower.

3. Get a smallish corkboard and push pins. Pick a font if you want to print words. I also used good quality heavy paper for my pictures and scrapbooking scissors to cut out my pictures so they had pretty edges.

4. Arrange. This is an awesome meditative stage where you get to play god of your own life and arrange all the pictures in a way that makes sense to you. I grouped my pictures according to each word.

5. Using yarn or string, carefully weave the thread between your pushpins. Magically speaking, it’s useful, as weaving the yarn through the push pins and connecting them together can be a magical act that’s as simple or elaborate as you’d like to make it. Spinning has long since been thought to be a magical act in many cultures. Grandmother Spider does it, The Fates do it and now you can weave together your goals for yourself. You should also think carefully about which pin to connect to which pin. For me, it was even more magical because I got to use the (pink) yarn that I had handspun myself for this.

6. Place the board in the right position. If you’re constantly glancing at it for a quick second at a time, it gives your subconscious food for thought. Mine is in my office, just out of direct eyesight but I can see it just out of the corner of my eye. When I get bored working, I tend to look around a lot so that adds to the occasionally seeing it but not seeing it too often aspect.



Footnotes:
*Sweat Lodge Deaths Investigated as Homocides http://articles.cnn.com/2009-10-15/us/arizona.sweat.lodge_1_james-arthur-ray-sweat-lodge-spiritual-warrior?_s=PM:USIn