Police are getting a bad rap from neighborhood musicians for basing criminal arrests off content published on social media sites. Unless you’re involved in illicit activity, don’t expect police to be trolling your accounts. But this exposé is a good reminder for you to monitor your online accounts to avoid suspicion from people―civilians and public officials alike―that search for you. Look yourself up on a search engine like Google or Yahoo, or use public records databases like www.instantcheckmate.com to see a complete collection of information that is made public about you.
Hide Your Kids.. Hide Your Wife.. Hide Your YouTube Account
Despite the expectation of violence and gang activity in mainstream rap music, most listeners just assume that the circumstances being expressed are mostly fictional. For the NYPD, however, locally produced rap music can provide some insight into the seedy (and sometimes criminal) behavior among the city’s neighborhoods.
Especially for youth gangs that take full advantage of YouTube and Facebook to promote their music, social media is a goldmine. In December, for instance, a music video provided evidence that 11 men featured in the video were in an established gang.
It makes sense: Instead of going undercover or bugging a phone, why not tap into information that has been freely published to the online community? What used to be publicized neighborhood rivalries has now become an international arena of beefs, insults, and—quite possibly—retribution.
While officers certainly don’t expect to find confessions or direct references to people, social media content could help with long-term investigations that would tie isolated shootings to larger-scale gang activity.
This news is not too surprising, given a past report that the NYPD had formed a social media team in 2011 to monitor Facebook pages of notable gang members. The intention was to look for posts related to rivalry insults and boasted crimes.
Though the NYPD’s social media scouring has prompted complaints of infringement on free speech, its efforts have also successfully sent criminals to the can. Musician Ronald Herron, also known as Ra Diggs, was charged with three murder counts in 2012 due to a related Tweet he had written. Between posted videos and written votes, these cases are just a few of too many cases of Internet oversharing that have led to arrests and convictions.
Even those indirectly involved in gang-related crimes can be convicted through posted content. That’s what happened to Cuame Nelson, the 21-year-old rapper indicted on conspiracy charges related to multiple shootings in 2012.
“(Rappers) are generally involved in gunplay and drug dealing, not just sitting on the sidelines humming tunes,” said Bridget Brennan, a special narcotics prosecutor for New York City.
Of course, since music expresses the trials and tribulations of the artist, rap music should be no different. But when the scenario involves a criminal offense, it’s more than just music to our ears. It’s grounds for law enforcement to get involved.
If art is true to form, then the NYPD is smart to track the output of local rap artists.
Don’t Let Your Online Reputation Get Out of Hand
Since you probably aren’t worried about being convicted of a major crime, the big takeaway here is how important it is for you to manage your online reputation. Anyone with Internet access can look you up, so use public databases and search engines to track what the Internet has to reveal about you.
Lisa Petersen works for a wealth management firm in St. Louis, Missouri. A part-time blogger and full-time mom, she likes to write blogs on safety and security updates featured in local and national news.