Work as usual
Last month was like most others, dotted with work and family stuff- photojournalism and swim lessons, meetings and Mother's Day.
Then, on May 30, an e-mail from the Warrior Eli Hoax Group started a chain reaction that we are still reeling from.
If you are unfamiliar with what happened to our family, there are links to several stories at the bottom of this post.
When the first media outlet contacted me, we were naturally hesitant to go forward. We thought that getting the two fraudulent blogs, the Facebook page and the YouTube video taken down would be enough. It would be over. But it did nothing except remove this person from any possible consequence and keep the rest of the World Wide Web in the dark about what could potentially happen to the images they had out there, too.
As someone who uses a lot social media (well, used to), I have learned a lot about what other people think... ('you had it coming because you put images on the internet,' 'nothing online is private,' 'don't trust the Web,' 'that is sick,' 'people are horrible'...).
But it's been a month since the hoax blog was discovered, and I really haven't learned much about my rights as an online user- as a professional or as a mom. This troubles me more than any of that hoax blog business. It has been reported that we will be completely online in about 10 years, and I, for one, am not thrilled about putting my entire life (much less photos) in a world where a Wild West type of existence is the only law in place.
So after the hoax was uncovered, I filed a police report, though the officer was not exactly sure how to write it up (I think he settled on fraud and identity theft).
I called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations to report a cyber crime.
And I emailed every legislator in my grasp.
The first to respond was TN State Senator Joey Hensley:
Today, a representative from US Senator Bob Corker's office called and said that new legislation needs to be put in place to address this type of Internet infringement and fraud. We will schedule a meeting.
As a photographer, I am still completely baffled that there is no better way to protect our images online. My photographs have a copyright embedded in the metadata, I have found that watermarks are completely worthless and I know no other software that can truly keep would-be thieves away. Why is this? We can't walk into a public library and pirate as we please. Why is the Internet any different? Public does not equal free to use by anyone.
Even so, this does not keep photographers from sharing work online, working to continue to build a good client base and interact with clients and prospective clients online- whether through websites or other forms of social media.
So what now? How do we proceed in an Internet that is clearly not catching up to our influx of sharing?
As a mom
I love social media. Since I work from home a lot, Facebook has become a great way for me to not go completely crazy from semi-solitary confinement... reading and seeing the news from my friends- where they are on vacation, or how their daughter did at her first recital is so much fun.. and following photographers I admire on Instagram and blogs has become part of my regular online routine.
And, though it's taken me a few weeks to say this out loud.. there is nothing wrong with sharing- especially when you're sharing responsibly. There is a reason there are 1.2 billion Facebook members and other social media platforms growing by leaps and bounds. We love it. We love to share, we love to follow and come on, we love putting little hearts on the pictures we like or giving our friends and family a thumbs up.
But until I find out more about what protections we have as moms, dads, photographers, teens, grandparents, (pretty sure I know some dogs with social media accounts)... I am not quite ready to share my sweet child's face with the world. Because even with all the hearts and the thumbs up and the great feedback and fun comments, there is darkness out there too. And we don't really see it until it creeps into our seemingly private, online lives.
I hope our ordeal opens the dialogue for more thought into our online lives. And instead of putting the blame on those of us who share online or those who prey on us, let's focus on the bigger picture: our future online and what protections we deserve. I don't believe the only answer is to fall off the face of the Internet (though, that sounds super tempting)... our Internet laws are beyond outdated and are an intimidating topic to dive into, but that shouldn't keep us from expecting more from a world that will only continue to grow.
The Huffington Post- 'Remembering Reilly' hoax mom Sarah Gilliam discovers photos of son on fraudulent cancer blog