Friday, October 31, 2008

The Internet: A Safe(r) Harbor for Aspies and Autists

Eric made an interesting point in his comment here, saying that due to enforcement efforts against Internet stalking, harassment and sex crimes the Internet is a less safe place than before for Aspies and autists.

He's certainly an absolute sense, that is. Due to these enforcement efforts in the world at large, face to face socializing can have even more dangers. The Internet is quite a bit safer now - relative to face to face socializing - for Aspies and autists. Here's how:

For one thing, with regard to sex crimes against minors - face to face you are conclusively presumed to know how young the other person is. You don't even get a chance to prove you didn't know or even couldn't have known the girl was, say, only 15 and not 19 as she said she was. The law just doesn't care.

Statutory rape and similar proceedings are cut and dried: Did these acts occur? Yes. Was she actually born on or before (the day the acts occurred minus 17 years or whatever the age of consent)? No. Were you born on or before (her actual birthdate minus whatever years you have to be older than her - not even applicable in all jurisdictions)? Yes. Verdict: Guilty.

Over a computer, it's different. You can't look at the other person, so the laws specify that you actually have to believe (or have good reason to believe) that the other person was underage. That's why Operation Innocent Images and similar Internet stings, in which police officers and others pretend to be young girls to lure sex criminals to try to meet them, have the officers actually state "their" ages, and generally not just in a passing remark either. The idea is to make crystal clear, in a written record, that the pervert actually knew the "girl" was, say, only 13.

Speaking of written records, that also makes things easier for Aspies. We tend to write well, and to be at our best when we can focus on what's in front of us. So, we can craft our emails, bulletin board posts and even chat room lines so as to reduce problems. There is no mutual misinterpretation problem with regard to tone of voice, body language, appearance and the like.

We also face less of a "he said she said" problem - very important since especially for offenses involving children and sex offenses (especially against young girls and women), all too many people tend to dispense with that pesky old "innocent until proven guilty" stuff.

If you're accused of, for example, talking dirty, whatever you're accused of having "said" will be there in black and white. Whoever judges you will see the same words your accuser did. There may be a log at the site itself, to deter forgery on the accuser's part. Meanwhile, you can keep your own records, so you can respond better to any official inquiries.

So, I would say that in the current environment, we Aspies and autists should try Internet socializing in its various forms all the more.

What do you think?

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