In the goofiest waste of law enforcement time we've seen in weeks, an on-campus police officer for a Florida middle school is facing a criminal investigation over his MySpace account. Why? It turns out one of the people on his friends list had a link on his or her profile to an internet porn site.
Or, as the St. Peterburg Times puts it, "kids could navigate from Officer John's page on the social networking site to 'Amateur Match Free Sex' in just three clicks."
You're reading correctly. Gulf Middle School resource officer John Nohejl didn't have porn on his MySpace profile, and he didn't link to porn. But one of the 170-odd people on his friends list, which seems mostly populated by students at his school, had a link to a legal adult site. Now the New Port Richey Police Department and the Florida attorney general's elite cyber crimes unit are investigating him for making adult content available to underage children.
Nohejl set up his MySpace account late last year with the school's and the police department's support, in a laudable bid to communicate with students where they live.
Presumably, he was expected to check all of his friends' profiles every day for inappropriate links -- because a school cop has nothing better to do.
Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility correctly calls the investigation a "witch hunt," and points out that the school itself can be accused of the same crime, if we're now holding people responsible for content three clicks away.
And golly, it looks like the school involved has its own indirect link contents problems, too. Gulf Middle School's "Resources" page links to a variety of clip art sites, and they link to ... well ... let's just say that the entire internet opens up at that stage. ...
If authorities start applying "safe for children" standards to everyone whose Web page links to other pages that themselves at some point and in some fashion link to "inappropriate" material, the entire Internet will be on the chopping block in a "degrees of separation" accusation orgy.
Update: The Tampa Tribune reports that the school has taken down the official school page that Weinstein found, admitting that it contained a direct link to a gay porn site. How embarrassing.
The link at one time led to a legitimate educational site, said Summer Romagnoli, a spokeswoman for the district. Recently, the company that operated the site was bought out and the Internet domain name was picked up by the more objectionable site.
UPI says the school principal is outraged.
"Obviously, we're going to investigate this," Principal Stan Trapp said. "I'm hoping that there will be some legal recourse. It's outrageous."
Legal recourse? Under the theory being used against Officer John, shouldn't Principal Stan be headed for the clink?