Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Social Media Can be a Life Saver During an Emergency, Except for America's 843,000 Registered Sex Offenders

Today we still make phone calls but not that often, most often to catch up with friends and family we’ll text or we’ll post/message on social media more often than not, Facebook. 

But what happens when the phone lines are down?  During a natural disaster like a tornado, an earthquake, a flood or maybe a hurricane.  

You may be able to text them but if the phone lines are destroyed maybe not. Perhaps you lost your phone in the emergency with all your contacts and you don’t know anyone’s actual number to reach them. 

What about in a mass shooting, a bombing or a terrorist attack? 

In these chaotic and uncertain emergency situations people get separated from their group, all modes of transportation might be shut-down; you could be in a foreign country not knowing your exact location. What do you do?  

You’ll most likely log onto Facebook (maybe Twitter) either with your phone or someone else’s and you search for friends or family members who you were separated from, you let those back home know you are OK and you figure out where to seek transportation or shelter. 

Social media is an amazing resource that doesn’t charge us for access or by duration like with a phone call and its reliability during an emergency can be much better than calling on the phone. 

During these types of events social media has been praised time and time again for reconnecting people and even getting emergency services to those in need. Many journalists have written about social media’s pros and cons during such crisis’s. Emergency management departments and organizations have pages dedicated to using social media instead of the telephone. 

Everyone’s on Facebook and Twitter, right? And if you’re not, you can be just sign up, it’s free. 

After all, access to the Internet was declared a basic human right by the United Nations back in 2011. 

With all the praise for social media during emergencies there is a segment of our population that no Journalist has ever bothered to take note of, Registered Sex Offenders. 

Facebook has a blanket policy ban prohibiting ANY Registered Sex Offender (RSO) from having a Facebook account. 

It doesn’t matter if the conviction that resulted in registration was a misdemeanor or a felony. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was 1 year ago or 20 years ago. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was against a minor or an adult. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was public urination or rape. It doesn’t matter if the conviction was computer-related or not. And it doesn’t matter if the conviction was for a consensual relationship with your teen girlfriend who has been your wife for the last 10 years.  

Facebook has no process for Registered Sex Offenders to appeal this ban. If you’re listed as an RSO you’re banned.

In fact Facebook encourages its members to turn in anyone they believe is a Registered Sex Offender who is using the social media site. A “Snitch on those Perverts Program” because doesn’t everyone hate them? Weren’t we all given permission to despise and condemn them once they were placed on public Registries? 

Facebook doesn’t ban people with murder convictions, drug convictions, domestic abuse convictions, child abuse convictions, dog abuse convictions, DUI’s, gun convictions or robbery/larceny/burglary convictions. Even though there are registries in some States for people with these convictions, just not any National Registry. 

At the end of 2015 there were approximately 843,000 Registered Sex Offenders in America. 

843,000 Americans who are banned from using Facebook to connect with their State lawmakers, their Representatives in Congress, their local police, their state police, their high school classmates, their college friends, their parents, their grandparents, their own children, their employer, future employers, local news outlets, national news outlets and the list goes on. 

So what? Most people would probably say.  

But prohibiting them from using social media during a natural disaster or a crisis which may be one of the only ways for them to find out if their own child is safe or to tell their children that they are safe or worse they need the police or fire department to come to a location and they have no way to get a hold of them because the phone lines are jammed or down. Someone’s life could be at stake and every minute could count. 

But they’re Sex Offenders banishment is justified, its common sense most people would probably say.  

No it’s not. The continued regulating, managing, monitoring and punishing of those who are listed on our Sex Offender Registries needs to be reeled back and access to social media is one of the first places we need to start. 

Banishment from social media isn’t just preventing them from connecting with family and friends, but it’s denying them access to emergency services and that isn’t just unacceptable, it’s cruel. 

Mary Devoy