Typically, I don’t care one bit about what others think about me. The reality of that situation is that it’s none of my business.
However, the internet is a place where large groups of people can think the worst of you, band together, and then attempt to destroy your life.
When I worked at MySpace from mid-2005 to mid-2008, I made a few mistakes. One of those mistakes was letting people know that I worked there. I also had other powers, including resetting passwords, and even deleting profiles. Letting people know about this was yet another mistake.
This laid the groundwork for a horrible situation where people accuse me of the worst possible thing: Harming a child.
Since MySpace is now defunct, I feel that it is safe to tell my story.
DOING THE JOB
This was maybe just a few months after I got hired, so I was in a relatively vulnerable state. Who am I kidding? In America, you are ALWAYS in a vulnerable state when you’re an employee. It’s just a little bit worse during the first 90 days.
I worked as a Quality Assurance Engineer, but also took on other things. One of those things included pornography. Specifically, there was lots of under-age “revenge” porn being posted.
Over time, I would be relieved of these duties when the company grew and new departments were added. But the way things were during this time, there were a total of 40 employees trying to handle everything.
One day, a “friend” forwarded a profile to me. They were very concerned, and rightly so. It was what appeared to be the profile of an 11-year-old girl in a cheerleader outfit.
The friend’s concern was that there were lots of creepy old men publicly commenting on their profile.
She told me that I should delete it. But I had my concerns because this was something that typically would get deleted really quickly. So I took it up with a supervisor, who told me, “Do NOT delete this profile, under any circumstances.”
More about that later.
So I wrote to the friend and told her that I had reported it to the appropriate people, and they would be dealing with the profile and the user.
My friend got irate. “I know that you have the power to delete profiles. The fact that you refuse to delete this profile tells me that you’re one of them. You’re a fucking pedophile.”
Nice sentiment, coming from a “friend.”
I replied to them, “Yes, I know that I do have the power to delete profiles. However, it’s not my job, I’m no longer allowed to do it, and my supervisor told me not to delete profiles anymore. They are investigating this situation.”
This friend wasn’t satisfied with my response, and proceeded to tell everyone they knew. People were beginning to spread the rumor that “a pedo works at MySpace.”
I was getting genuinely concerned, because you don’t want rumors like this spreading about you. I talked to my supervisor about it, and they thanked me for the heads up and told me to not worry about it.
So I spent my day on MySpace, trying to work, while dozens and dozens of people wrote to tell me what a creepy, disgusting pervert I was. All of this, because I refused to delete an account.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Remember that my supervisor told me NOT to delete the profile.
This is the part that I could not explain to these “friends” in a way that was satisfactory for them.
The profile of the 11-year-old girl was a “honeypot” account set up by the FBI. The profile was constantly monitored by a shift of people who would make notes of those who were getting in contact with the “girl.”
They had an existing list of convicted pedophiles whose profiles were tagged. Every time they logged in, a series of FBI agents, as well as MySpace employees, would get a text message and phone calls to let them know that confirmed pedos were logged on.
At least half a dozen people, at any given time, were watching every move, every word, and every post of these concerning individuals.
The honeypot profile lead to a great number of convictions over the years.
All of this lead to the frustrating part, that not only could I NOT delete the profile, but I could also NOT tell them the truth about it. Telling them the truth would have gotten them off my back, and it would have stopped them from spreading the rumor that I was a pedo. But it would have also jeopardized the operation, resulting in putting children at risk once again.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO ME NOW
The situation taught me a few lessons. One of those lessons is to never, EVER let anyone know where you work or what you do. I was fortunate to have bosses and associates who understood the situation and took the uneducated rantings of these people for what they were.
The other thing I learned is that if anyone can so easily believe something so horrible about you, then they are not your friend in the first place. Most of these people didn’t really know me and didn’t like me.
The heartbreaking part was that a few of them HAD met me, we DID hang out. They had an idea of who I was and what I was all about, and yet they still decided to draw a horrific conclusion about me based on partial information, at a time when I could not fill them in without putting an important FBI operation at risk.
Again, I had told them that I let my supervisor know, that I was no longer allowed to delete profiles, and that upper management knew about it. This should have been enough for them.
It would have been enough for a friend.
I’d hope that someday one of them will read this and feel badly about themselves. I seriously doubt they will, since they wrote me off almost 16 years ago.
This situation also taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to making assumptions. There are many things that I do NOT want to be in life, and being like these “friends” and behaving the way they did is one of those things that I want to avoid.
It wouldn’t be the last time that a bunch of “friends” thought the worst of me, banded together in a network, and set out to destroy my life. It’s why I do not use ANY social networking today. Because people in large groups who can easily band together are typically very stupid and highly destructive.
I have no time or patience for stupid people.
What made this worse was that it happened around the time that I stopped taking my son to the park. My son is half-Mexican, so we look a little different. Every time we went to the park, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, there would inevitably be a man, a woman, or a group of people approaching me to ask me what I was doing with “that poor child.”
The Pedo Panic in America is real, it’s crazy, and it ironically gets in the way of real situations and real investigations.
So once my son no longer wanted to go to the park, I felt a mixed response of sadness and relief. And then, THIS garbage went down.
I would always talk with my son about it when things like this happened, and would explain it to him. This is why he has NO internet presence and will never use social networking.
He went to the office with me many times. He knows how sausage is made.
IN THE END
Above all else, this situation taught me to NEVER take action based on superficial knowledge. It something looks a certain way, maybe it IS that way, or maybe it is not.
Can I remove myself from the situation? If so, then I do it. If not, then I might investigate.
But I can tell you this much. If I were using a site like Facebook, and I saw a profile that looked like it belonged to a little kid, and a bunch of old creeps are visibly and publicly being sexual and otherwise creepy, I would safely assume that dozens and dozens of eyes are upon it, 24/7, and then I would move on.
Because if MySpace did it 16 years ago, then I can safely assume that Facebook is doing it now, and doing a way better job of it. They have entire departments built for this sole purpose.
Don’t get emotionally affected.
Think about it.