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TexasDude's avatar

How should the Collective respond to the potential admission of a felony on our website?

Asked by TexasDude (25274points) July 10th, 2011
62 responses
“Great Question” (14points)

While the majority of Flutherites are wonderful, squeaky-clean individuals, it is not a stretch to accept that every so often, someone may admit on here, knowingly or not, to committing a serious crime, or even planning to commit one.

In this case, what should the proper community response be?
To someone admitting a crime?
To someone potentially threatening to commit one, whether explicitly or implicitly?
Do any such guidelines exist already?

Community dialogue time. 3, 2, 1, GO!

Observing members: 0
Composing members: 0


marinelife's avatar

I would think that alerting the moderators would be in order. They are the only ones who can connect real world people to Fluther user names.

chyna's avatar

Yes, we should respond to the admission of a felony, but I’m not sure how we will be able to do that. If a newbie comes on and states they are going to kill someone, we don’t know if they are trolls, just angry and need to let some steam off etc. If it’s a user that has been here and we pretty much know that they are not exaggerating or lying, I think they absolutely need to be turned in. If, for example a user states they have raped someone and don’t want to be caught, I think it would be up to the mods to contact police using the IP number to turn them in.

KateTheGreat's avatar

I’m pretty sure that the moderators would have to discuss it among themselves before solving that problem. They’d have to be 100% sure before taking serious action. However, I’m pretty sure that 99% of the people who admit to serious crime on the internet are lying.

Well damn, I can’t tell any of you about my wondrous adventures as a crime-fighting killing machine without getting caught? That sucks…

zenvelo's avatar

I would agree with @marinelife, the mods are as close to management as we have. Our responsibility is to inform the moderators so they can notify the authorities.

It gets more complicated with non-US posters. I would not want someone who discusses a potential revolutionary act in an oppressive country to be caught, but a potential terrorist act (either from the right or left) is a tough ethical question.

TexasDude's avatar

@marinelife the problem with that is that we mods don’t really have any way to connect usernames with real people except for IP addresses or if they flat out tell us who they are, and it isn’t easy to track someone down by an IP. Possible, I’m sure, but definitely not easy or quick.

@chyna good points, all of them, but see my response to marinelife about the issue with IPs.

@KatetheGreat rest assured that we would. Trolls threaten shit all the time that they have no real intent to do, so that’s why I think chyna’s point about how well we know the user is a good thing to consider. And I’d love to hear baout your crime fighting adventures.

@zenvelo I would agree.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Thanks for asking this, @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, in light of recent discussion I’ve wondered this, too. Where would the line be? A felony? I honestly don’t know. I’ve seen Qs in the past asking how to beat some sort of a rap, and Jellies leaping in to help someone lie or not take responsibility. I just spent a while trying to find one, of course I couldn’t, but I know they’re there! And I’ve on written a tome on this post and erased most of it. I, too, would like to know what the responsibility of the site would be…

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard : I’m pretty sure the police have tracking methods they can use given an IP address…one would hope.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Then again, there have been instances of real crime being played out while the internet watches. Back in the day, on 4chan there was a guy who said that he was going to bring bombs to his school or something (I forgot what the whole story is, but fuck it, and he actually did. They cross referenced the IP addresses and it all checked out. So sometimes things like that do happen. One day, my dear, one day.

Coloma's avatar

Great question!
I think my first instinct would be to alert the mods, and, obviously, many others would as well. As participants there is nothing any of us could do, without the intervention of the site managers. After that I am clueless as to how the proper interventions might occur.

Scary thought, I already cringe at the few questions I have read that insinuate someone, or a friend of someone is showing suicidal tendencies.

Of course, one of the problems of the internet is that the potential for very mentally/emotionally unstable types to seek an audience for their drama and/or screwed up-ness is a real cause for concern.

Determining the validity of someones disclosures vs. ” the boy that cried wolf” is a tough call.

In other words…the f—k if I know! lol

jerv's avatar

You have to submit an e-mail address to register here, right? While not everybody links theirs publicly, at least the mods have access to that info, and it’s usually not hard to trace from there, at least not for law enforcement officials.

rebbel's avatar

It would be pretty hard to judge someones words on their truth, i would think.
If one thinks that a user has something bad in mind it is quite a step to report him/her, be it to the mods or police.
I know I wouldn’t sleep very well that evening, knowing that through my action someone has been lifted from their bed by the police for questioning and that it is based on my wrongful judgement.
Some weeks ago i asked some crime related questions in a few days time and jonsblond or blondesjon (sorry, i can’t tell you apart while writing this :-) ) jokingly asked me if i were up to something.
Imagine that reports were being made then….?
I am innocent.

funkdaddy's avatar

I don’t think we should help plan crimes or help people cover up undiscovered crimes but at the same time the legal processes are convoluted enough that they can lose anyone and helping someone with your knowledge and experience is what Fluther is all about.

If you start modding everything that has to do with a possible crime and reporting them, where does that stop.

Is Symbeline planning her murderous rampage with the question If you were a murderer in some cheesy slasher flick, what would be your main instrument of murder?

How about if someone asks a hypothetical as to where we would hide a body? Is that plotting? Does it need to be reported?

I think any policy needs to take into account the fact that we’ll answer questions about things that hurt people far more than underage drinking or recreational drug use here without a problem.

In my opinion, moderation is there to keep things civil, to keep the question quality high, and to help things run smoothly.

Anything beyond that is hindering the discussion and community that’s been fostered here.

P.S. the mods do a great job

Aethelflaed's avatar

If the mods were to give the IP and email address of a user over to “the police”, who exactly would they be calling? We don’t know what local jurisdiction the user is in. So the FBI, even though they most likely wouldn’t have jurisdiction either? Are Fluther threads admissible in court? Is there any reason to think that when the most that would happen would be a report filed even if the victim had reported the crime themselves, reporting it to “the police”, whomever they are, will actually come to anything? And what if the user isn’t in the US – would the mods be calling up Interpol and reporting the user? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting justice for the victim of the user who sparked this question, I just don’t think there’s really any viable option for Fluther doing anything.

TexasDude's avatar

@funkdaddy I know what you mean. That’s why I personally think that we should only get the law involved in cases where it’s pretty obvious that something did, or will happen. Hell, I had a flutherite once tell me that she reported me to the FBI for being a “sniper.” I lol’d hard and never heard from the FBI, but that’s the kind of silliness that would happen all the time if we got really heavy handed with what we deem to be illegal or potentially illegal on here. This question isn’t a soapbox for my beliefs about the whole thing, though. I just want to get the collective talking.

linguaphile's avatar

I would want to know if the admission of a felony was an actual admission, not an exaggeration or a call for attention. It’s really awkward, very awkward to watch, I agree.

augustlan's avatar

From the management side of things, there’s only so much we actually can do. This is one of the reasons we don’t allow questions that ask for help with illegal activities, aside from the obvious “We don’t want to help criminals” part. IP addresses are not an exact science. For instance, it may be a public location like a school, library or even an apartment building (a public IP was used in a recent example), or an AOL IP address (which are shared by a huge amount of people), or a proxy used to conceal the real location. Email addresses are similarly only somewhat useful. People use ‘throw-away’ addresses to join sites all the time, some of which are designed to conceal their real identities. (Note: mods can’t see email addresses, but I can.)

Then there’s the whole thing about knowing what is real and what is fantasy. It’s pretty darn difficult to tell between the two, sometimes. For all of these reasons, a theoretical crime that has already been committed is generally not something we’d pursue, beyond removing the question and/or advising the individual to turn themselves in.

All of that said, if I believed anyone’s life was in imminent danger, I would try my very best to prevent the crime. Provided that the IP is not a proxy, it can be used to determine a general location. From there I would contact the local authorities with whatever information I had available.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I would assume we should ask the person as many questions as possible so as to aid in an investigation later.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d tell Auggie. Let her deal with it. I’m chicken like that!

Coloma's avatar


A sniper? LOL make a good point as well.
The possibility for someone to CAUSE a problem for someone who is innocent is also a potentiality. Oh great…is the FBI going to show up at my micro-farm because I joke about my occasional partaking of Happy Brownies.

“Oooh, I hear that Coloma woman has 5 acres of shrubbery growing in her canyon. hahaha

Dutchess_III's avatar

Where she runs around naked. If that’s not a felony I don’t know what is @coloma!

Kardamom's avatar

Where she not only runs around naked, she does it in front of a fire hydrant that has been illegally opened whilst eating her brownies and explaining the definiton of date rape to people who don’t know what it means.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Hello, big brother-esque Q – This is enough of a fantasy land that it will not be up to me to pull a noose tight around someone’s head, where would I get off doing such a thing? I would never do that.

jrpowell's avatar

Is this based on what happened here?

Kardamom's avatar

I’m curious to know what @johnpennington our resident police officer thinks about this question. Is he, by virtue of being an officer, bound to do something if he reads a post where it appears that a felony has taken place? Not even with regard to Fluther, per se, but is he legally bound by his oath of office to take some types of steps, and what, if any would those steps be?

Cruiser's avatar

I would say put away your deputy badge as I have seen quite imaginative presentations of questions and answers that transcend reality and I myself wonder what is real and what is fiction. Do you really think you know me?? What is real…what is fake, has this felony really been committed? Who is the judge here and who is the jury??

filmfann's avatar

Can I take a moment to say that I highly doubt that most of the collective are squeaky clean?
I know for damn sure I am not.
Also, since this site seems to encourage sharing past experience, I don’t think we should automatically mod someone who discusses past drug use, or difficulties with the law.
Let’s keep this on a case by case level.

Don’t piss me off, or I’ll pop a cap in yo’ ass

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@filmfann Seriously. Agreed. I don’t trust any of the collective to give me up to the authorities.

Berserker's avatar

Very interesting question.

A little off topic, since it doesn’t deal with crime, but I wonder something. If somebody leaves a suicide note on here, and it seems serious, what do the mods and staff do? (besides disallowing this type of question to begin with, I assume) I was on a forum where in the rules, it said that if such a thing is posted, the authorities would be contacted, and measures would be taken for them to actually find the person. Can people even do that? If so, the same could be done with admitting to crime, or planning one.
Then again, we’re back to square one when it comes to whether or not it’s real. :/

poisonedantidote's avatar

Do we have any evidence? No? then it is just fiction.

Do we have any evidence? Yes? then why should we be expected to do anything?

Let people say whatever they want to say.

Berserker's avatar

@filmfann Aye, agreed indeed. Although I do think that the question refers to more serious crimes, like murder, sexual abuse or severe stuff like that. I’ve often mentioned my past experiences with drugs, and that one time I shoplifted a buncha stuff at the drugstore. So I think all that stuff is safe here.

JLeslie's avatar

It depends on the jelly I think. Zuma used to give very interesting amazing answers. Remember the one on this question I asked a long time ago? I assume his conviction was considered a felony? For me some crimes are worse than others. Violence just makes me so uncomfortable, I rather not know one of our jellies is violent, or even violent minded, I find it upsetting.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I can ‘testify’ I have no criminal record.
One parking ticket in 30 years, no DUI’s, warrants, or history of violence.
No diagnosed mental illnesses, and, I am not delusional, suicidal or violent.

There, hope you all feel better. lol

filmfann's avatar

I have talked candidly and honestly about my daughters involvement in drug labs.
I would hate to think I have put her in jeopady with the law.

ETpro's avatar

My reaction would have a lot to do with what crime they are talking about. I’ve seen numerous users here admit to smoking pot, doing some odd sex act that’s illegal in their state, or some such. I couldn’t care less. I think these things being crimes is silly, and in my wildest dreams I wouldn’t turn in someone even if I despised their political views or their attitude.

If someone admits a serious crime, one where a real victim is harmed in its commission, I would definitely flag it for the moderators to handle. If they are just speculating about whether they should or shouldn’t do it, I would jump into the discussion and remind them of the serious consequences, plus the fact that they had disclosed their interest in doing it in a public forum; which might substantially increase the odds of their getting caught and jailed for it if they did follow through on the thought.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Are we talking any felony, even a relatively harmless one, like bouncing a check? Or just the really horrible ones like rape, kidnapping, and murder?

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Aethelflaed I think we’re talking about the latter part of your statement.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@KatetheGreat I figured as much, but you never know.

Berserker's avatar

I jaywalked once.

chyna's avatar

^Citizens arrest!

KateTheGreat's avatar

@chyna Funny story, I once had someone try to pull a citizens arrest on me because they thought my Black ‘n Mild was stuffed with weed. Hahahahaa.

Berserker's avatar

@chyna…could it be? Are your people without TP, too?

ETpro's avatar

@Symbeline I live in Boston. The cops here ticket you for standing on the corner waiting for the light instead of jaywalking. It confuses the drivers when you refuse to jaywalk.

TexasDude's avatar

@Symbeline I’m calling the FBI on you!

@ETpro yeah I definitely wouldn’t encouraging reporting someone who admitted to drug use or buying a dildo in Texas or something stupid like that. To answer what @Aethelflaed asked, I’m mainly talking about people that admit to a rape or murder or something serious.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I didn’t know you couldn’t have dildos in TX!

bkcunningham's avatar

Did somebody allegedly admit to something like murder or rape here @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, or are you just supposing for the sake of a question?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Cool. Because I think if we were including stuff like torrenting music, we’d have to turn in at least half the mods in addition to everyone else. @filmfann is right, the rest of Fluther isn’t squeeky clean.

@bkcunningham Yes, though the thread has been deleted.

ETpro's avatar

@KatetheGreat It’s strange. Texas has its odd obscenity laws that make dildos illegal, and a number of red states have old Sodomy laws still on the books which technically make oral and anal sex illegal even between a husband and wife. The right wingers that run these legislatures keep crowing about wanting small government. I think that means little enough to fit in every bedroom and vagina in their reach.

TexasDude's avatar

@Aethelflaed the RIAA can slob on my knob like corn on the cob.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@ETpro The right wingers cannot have my vaginaaaaa! Mwhahaha.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard LOL!!! I’m with you on that one.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ETpro Well, they still have the laws on the books, but in 2003 the Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws, so it’s no longer illegal in those states.

ETpro's avatar

@Aethelflaed It’s still illegal in those states, but if the state court didn’t throw it out, and if you appealed it up to federal court it would get dismissed. They ought to take the laws off the books or amend them to apply only to bestiality.

Coloma's avatar

Oh, I did get a warning by one of river patrol rangers in my state park last summer for not wearing a life jacket on my inner tube. You know, I needed a flotation device to use my flotation device.

Jeez…I was rafting this river when you boys were still a spark in your daddys eye. lol

Sooo, I just tied my inner tube to a tree and floated without going anywhere, technically I wasn’t going down river. haha

Yes, I would normally wear a vest if I was in the big water

funkdaddy's avatar

@all – Texas Dildo Law no longer enforced

You’re safe… for now.

Honestly, it was never hard to find a dildo. As noted in the article they were sold as “educational devices” right next to the bongs tobacco only water pipes.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ETpro No, Lawrence v Texas invalidated all those laws.

jonsblond's avatar

@rebbel That was me. FBI hasn’t made an appearance yet? ;)

We shouldn’t. I’d be in jail for admitting to spanking my children a few times when they were toddlers if it were up to Fluther. Nobody knows if anyone here is telling the truth or not. How many times do we have someone here calling someone else a troll and they are wrong because it’s just a clueless teen?

Fluther is not the police. The users are not always honest.

I smoked pot 6 months ago. whatcha gonna do about it? :P

Bellatrix's avatar

I remember being in a chat room a few years ago when a man came in and started to talk about how he was currently involved in a paedophile ring and abused children. I kept a log of the conversation and contacted the police. They put me through to the department who deals with such things (I think it is/was Operation Argus or something) who took down all the details, they asked me to email them the log of the conversation and seemed to take my call very seriously. They gave me a number to call if he showed up again. I don’t know if anything happened because of my call.

I have also phoned the police when someone threatened suicide. They rang me back to say the man was okay after they checked it out. I can’t remember what information I gave them now. It was a long time ago. They took my call seriously again though.

I don’t know what access police have to get contact info through yahoo and other organisations but in these two cases people took my calls seriously.

Here, I would go to the mods and hope they would call the police and pass on any information available. I’m not talking about things like smoking pot or victimless crime, but if there is a victim involved or someone is at risk of self-harm, I would prefer to err on the side of it being a false alarm than ignore a situation where children are being abused, there is a likelihood of a murder happening or someone might commit suicide. A phone call to the police is a small cost and if it turns out to be a false alarm, better that than the other option.

ucme's avatar

Didn’t this happen on Answerbag back in the day? I seem to recall some sick fuck rattling on about his attraction to small boys. One in particular, who he knew, was in his words “in the line of fire.”
There’s no way of knowing if he was just a sad deluded prick getting his kicks from this shit, or something more sinister was afoot. He was very calm & lucid in the way he put his intentions across, kinda creepy really.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Definitely report that ^^^^^^^

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I live in Texas. I have 3 vibrators/dildos. God, it feels good to get that off my chest.

I’m also about to murder Wilson. Today. I’m serious. This volleyball is gonna die!

EDIT: I just saw the posts stating the Texas dildo thing no longer matters. I feel deprived of my criminal activity now.

Jude's avatar

I didn’t read any of the responses because I’m lazy like that.

So, is there something going on?? Is someone breaking the law?

TexasDude's avatar

@Jude we are being theoretical. Love Priest.

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