NFL Teams Risk Prosecution For Using Phony MySpace Profiles

Our own Taco Bill, whose day job resides in the fringes of the law enforcement business, has raised an excellent point in response to our recent blurb regarding the use of phony social-networking postings.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports has reported that some teams are setting up ghost profiles in order to obtain information from potential draft picks.
The only problem?  The practice potentially violates federal law.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles, the locale of the MySpace servers, brought criminal charges against Missouri resident Lori Drew after she created a phony MySpace profile to harass a local girl, who eventually committed suicide.
The logic of 18 U.S.C. § 1830 is pretty simple.  Violating the terms of service applicable to MySpace or any other social networking site violates federal law.  And since the MySpace terms of service prohibit the user from promoting false and misleading information, creating a phony profile and assuming a phony identity exceeds the terms of service, and likewise crosses the line of legally permissible conduct.
In Lori Drew’s case, the egregious facts surely influenced the decision to pursue criminal charges.  But with prosecutorial discretion extremely broad, and no NFL team in L.A., a zealous hotshot (or, as the case may be, an overofficious jerk) hoping to prove a point could decide to sink his or her teeth into this one, if for no reason other than to ensure that the general public realizes that creating false accounts on MySpace and Facebook is a no-no.
Though it remains a longshot that any NFL team would ever actually be prosecuted for this kind of conduct, the irony here — as Taco Bill points out — is that the efforts of the various pro football teams to spot players who might be inclined to break the law are potentially relying upon tactics that actually break the law.

32 responses to “NFL Teams Risk Prosecution For Using Phony MySpace Profiles

  1. “Our own Taco Bill, whose day job resides in the fringes of the law enforcement business”
    So….Paul Blart, Mall Cop?

  2. Crap, guess I’ll have to take down my Studly Wundertool profile on Facebook…

  3. Jokes aside, the issue is pretty clear (and what my friends and I do). It takes 2 steps.
    1) Make your profile private.
    2) Don’t accept friend requests from people who aren’t your friends.
    The only thing they could then see is you name and profile picture. So put a decent profile picture up. Done.

  4. What does this have to do with John Locke moving the island? Oh wait, wrong site.

  5. Sure, bust them on creating phony myspace accounts
    But meanwhile they harbor criminals, murders, and drug addicts and that’s just the Bengals!

  6. Couldn’t a low level scout or other employee use his own “real” account and then report what he sees to his employers or even give his login information to his employers?

  7. I mean..I don’t really see how any players could prove that an organization looked at their myspace page without the organization actually coming out and saying they did..there’s no way to track who exactly viewed your profile page..which leads to another question..
    Who uses Myspace anymore anyway?

  8. “STREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETCH ”
    Not really. The law really is that bad. I recall folks remarking when it was passed how insanely broad the law is, effectively covering a wide range of issues in an attempt to target bullying.
    Hopefully, it would never be enforced for something so stupid. Still, isn’t that bad, that you have to rely on the good intentions of the justice system to avoid frivolous prosecution?

  9. That makes sense since Taco is obviously not a professional artist. “Hey! Photoshop Elements wuz bundled with my new compooter, I can do art now!”

  10. April 8th, 2009 at 2:41 pm
    “Our own Taco Bill, whose day job resides in the fringes of the law enforcement business”
    So….Paul Blart, Mall Cop?
    “Touch it, respect it”

  11. Please, as an HR professional I have checked the my space, facebook, etc profiles of candidates for years.
    You do not need to set up a dummy profile in order to do this.
    Besides if someone is such an idiot to not realize that there is no such thing as private once it is posted in cyberspace, they may not be the candidate that you should be persuing.

  12. Nothing will come of it. The other case was base on harassment. It’s also known as cyber-bullying. When I was still in high school we had to go to the gym one day and listen to a woman talk about it.

  13. As someone who used to work in law enforcement related to tech issues –
    There is no logic in 18 USC 1030 with regard to terms of service. It’s an anti-hacking statute. The Drew case is now before the Court of Appeals, with one issue being whether the law applies to violations of TOS. Which it doesn’t, in my humble opinion. I wish there were a way to hold Drew legally responsible for what she did but this one is too much of a stretch beyond what the law was aimed at when it passed.

  14. So basically what you’re saying is NFL scouts are making profiles on MySpace to prowl on young men with their shirts off.

  15. Judging by some of the comments on this site, Taco Bill ain’t the only guy on the fringes of law enforcement – mainly on the receiving end, though.

  16. Couldn’t they just get a hot chick who’s employed by the team to befriend these geniuses online and it would be completely legal?

  17. “Our own Taco Bill, whose day job resides in the fringes of the law enforcement business…”
    He works at Dunkin’ Donuts?

  18. I can’t get the image of good cop Florio and bad cop Taco Bill kicking in the door of NFL headquarters and “DEMANDING SOME ANSWERS!”

  19. that’s a really broad interpretation… doesn’t make sense that violating terms of service can lead to a felony charge, especially if no ones rights are violated- would PFT seek to press charges if I violated the terms of use on this site? unlikely. additionally, I could see myspace or PFT filing a civil suit (if they had the time/cash to do so), but a criminal charge? signs of the apocalypse.

  20. This is one of those times when PFT tries to hard, and should have counted to 10, actually 10 million, before going ahead with this. People will always still log in if something is bad, but when it’s just silly, no they won’t

  21. @TacoBill
    @Mike Florio
    So….since I won, does that mean I get a copy of your book with the inscription “There’s nothing finer than being in your diner”?

  22. Why do they need to use deception? Most kids these days will friend anyone–just have a scout (who doesn’t already have their own profile, obviously) create a profile under their own name and friend the prospects. It’s not like the sites require you to give much info about yourself, so the scouts don’t have to list who their employer is. Not all will friend them back, certainly, but those that don’t are probably also the ones that would be less likely to post incriminating stuff. Doesn’t seem to me like there’s any need to creaty phony profiles at all–surely the scouting staff on your average NFL team is big enough to have someone who can create profiles for spying purposes.

  23. seatofmypants: “Please, as an HR professional I have checked the my space, facebook, etc profiles of candidates for years.
    You do not need to set up a dummy profile in order to do this.
    Besides if someone is such an idiot to not realize that there is no such thing as private once it is posted in cyberspace, they may not be the candidate that you should be persuing.”
    If someone is such an idiot that he can’t spell PURSUING, he may not be the right person to be hiring people for a company.

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