Brian Callahan offers his take on Facebook
Brian Callahan is a St. John's-based journalist, formerly of The Telegram and The Independent. He has also become a regular commentator on CBC Radios Morning Show.
As many readers are aware, I occasionally run full transcripts of such commentaries, because I am always interested in reading a journalistic view of current events. On Monday, Callahan talked about Facebook, an Internet phenomenon that should need no introduction here. Callahan has kindly agreed to reproduce the text of that commentary here.
You may or may not agree with what Callahan has to say. Either way, you are welcome to join the discussion in the comments section.
Heres Brian Callahans take on the social networking site of our times.
Are you on Facebook?
I am, but only so I could see pictures from my trip to Cuba. Im not a camera kinda guy.
I was tagged in some pics, so theyre in my profile. I put on the security features, but I dont really know if they work. As a new dad and a freelance journalist with a few side-gigs, I just dont have the time to check, let alone update my status every few minutes. I want to delete myself, but it's easier to escape the mafia. Its a long process.
Facebook is a legal minefield, and there have been more than a few casualties.
The big one is justice. Just ask the judge in the Francis Ayles case. I would insert a pig joke here, but a man died, so Ill move on.
Heres my conundrum: the journalist in me likes Facebook for sources and background, but the private me is scared of it.
Not too long ago, when I was still young and foolish, I didnt see the harm. But the more court cases you cover, the more you realize how rumours and unsubstantiated claims can kill ones right to a fair trial. Just ask Bill Murray.
More and more our society is leaning toward the hang em high mantra, rather than innocent until proven guilty. One of the first things a judge will tell a jury is not to form an opinion until you have all the facts. So much for Open Line. Dont get me wrong - opinion is fair; its judging without having a clue thats wrong.
I dont know if there was a Lynch Gary Gosine group on Facebook, but I really hope not. Hes been through enough.
A better group would be Lets follow the development rules in downtown St. Johns. Im no engineer, but I know the difference between 18 and 23 metres high.
There are groups for everything - some for very legitimate and worthy causes, others are funny and helpful. So Facebook does serve a purpose. Its the gossip bags and know-it-alls that ruin it for everyone else.
You have to be very careful because the jurys still out on Internet law. Your pictures, or your kids snaps, can be downloaded and end up anywhere. And the things you say could be held against you in a court of law.
No, Facebooks not alone. There are other so-called social networking sites out there. Theyre even suing each other because the biz is so lucrative - and dangerous.
A London man stabbed his wife to death after she changed her Facebook status to single, stating she wanted to meet other men. Closer to home, a woman formed a group to get back at her ex for all kinds of rotten things. Facebook deleted it, but not before she had a few dozen members on side. Her ex, a cop, is facing charges, but they have nothing to do with her. So he might have a good case.
In fairness, Facebook is monitored for content and abuse, but they cant catch everything. And theres no clear line that must be crossed.
Regulators must find a category for it and clearly define the rules. Most bloggers and media are responsible and accountable, but Facebook is a pre-trial publicity free-for-all.
At The Independent, I did a story on a Newfoundlander murdered in Ontario. Rumours were flying on Facebook, and the police told me it was interfering with their investigation because of its, lack of credibility.
Rumours and misinformation are generally not a good thing, the spokesman said.
Now theres an understatement.
For the Morning Show, Im Brian Callahan.