Prisoners On Facebook: People Don’t Like This

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No drugs. No weapons. And no social networks.

Convicted felons are supposed to be denied many things when they’re sent to prison, but it seems that law enforcement authorities are only just waking up to the idea that even convicts might want to post on their Facebook wall.

The Huffington Post posted an article today that spells out the fears of victims of crime, suddenly faced with perpetrators’ virtual identities whenever they go online.

The problem has become serious enough that the state of South Carolina is considering making it illegal for a prisoner to use social networks, with a penalty of a $500 fine and an extra 30 days in prison.

Even so, policing such a change in the law is going to be problematic. While the HuffPo article only mentions Facebook, there are plenty of other websites that are easy to post to from a mobile phone – such as Twitter or Posterous. The only way to stop prisoners posting to sites like this is to make certain they don’t have a cellphone in the first place. And policing that presents problems of its own.

Facebook’s policy is to deactivate prisoner profiles once alerted to them. It also routinely deactivates any profile it believes has been created by a third party, such as a prisoner’s friend or relative helping from outside.

But other sites don’t have such stringent rules about identity. Playing FarmVille from prison might get tougher in the near future, but tweeting, or posting to other sites? That’s going to be very hard to stamp out.

For more on the story, check out South Carolina May Crack Down on Facebook in the Big House on TIME.com.

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