I got the idea for this article when PoC owner Michael Broad messaged me after I sent him the link to a story involving a young boy who was showing off kill after shooting a cat. I told him it would be a good one to report on, but be sure not to show the boys face since he’s definitely underage.
Michael messaged me back and ask why he should hide the identity when Facebook did not. I told him it’s a ‘thing’ here in the United States and people are sue-happy. Most states consider a person is underage until they reach a certain milestone. For criminal issues, it’s usually 18 unless they’ve committed a murder and the person has been charged as an adult.
Everyone on Facebook may know who the person is and it would be good to be able to show the face of a young abuser. Still, the lack of privacy would likely create serious issues such as being confronted by an attorney representing the family.
According to information in Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal law, located at 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6506 (Pub.L. 105–277, 112 Stat. 2681-728, enacted October 21, 1998).
“If a company negligently or purposefully discloses a child’s personal information in a public arena, parents call on the harm to be remedied.”
COPPA covers children under 13 years old, so it’s a bit more lenient with a social media sharing of a minor, his information and/or his photograph. The UK has a similar rule for 13 years of age and younger that can be found here. The big question is does COPPA cover a child shown or written about in a negative manner in an online website.
In September 2011, the FTC announced proposed revisions to the COPPA rules to expand the definition of what it meant to “collect” data from children. The proposed rules presented a data retention and deletion requirement.
The act applies to websites and online services operated for commercial purposes that are either directed towards children under 13 or have actual knowledge that children under 13 are providing information online. It takes into account the manner in which the information is being collected and the uses to which the information will be put.
Non-profits are for the most part exempt and the emphasis is put more on personal data than on photographs. From what I’ve read a few people have gotten into legal trouble for posting photographs of their own children where a friend of the child is also posted. This seems to be a case of grasping at straws for someone to make money via a lawsuit.
Then there are the cat haters who comment on different websites who don’t consider killing a cat as animal cruelty. They would likely praise the young man for ridding the world of another cat, which they consider vermin and an “invasive species.”
If anyone out there has any legal advice on this topic, please share with the rest of us. Personally, I’d consider it a safety precaution not to give out the name or address of a child on a website or on social media if that child has done something wrong.
Now for the discussion question. Should we share photos on social media, even those we didn’t take ourselves, showing the face of a pre-teen doing something we consider legally or morally wrong? I’ve been very cautious over anything shared involving any type of abuse but especially cases involving children who abuse and kill companion animals.