Social media and social networking sites have truly changed the world. Never before has information spread faster or easier among the masses.
But every silver lining has it a great big gray cloud attached to it, and the open and rapid exchange of information is no exception.
Here are five shady jobs that have been made much easier through social media…
In the bad old days of Hitler & Stalin, a dictator had to cultivate a vast network of spies & loyalists to sniff out any challenge to his authority. These spies and loyalists were required to infiltrate every aspect of society, including (and perhaps most importantly) the media. People might assume that since the rise of the worldwide web, it would be harder than ever for a dictator to detect any dissention before it turned into a full-blown shit storm. They may only be half-right.
The role of Facebook in fomenting the Egyptian uprising has been well-documented as a new-age grass-roots tool for the disenfranchised, seeing as how policing the internet is eons more difficult than policing the mainstream media.
What people don’t realize is that something like Facebook may be a double-edged sword in that regard. Sure, it makes organizing a rally or a protest easier and a lot less dangerous. But since it’s a social network, that means that anybody can use it—bad guys included. A dictator can utilize the site to gather the very intelligence needed to identify dissidents and arrest those they see as a threat. No code breaking, undercover work, special ops or MacGyver-ish finagling necessary.
In the bad(?) old days of Iceberg Slim and Heidi Fleiss, making money in the sex industry usually meant you had to get off your ass, find the worst section of town, walk the streets until sun-up and hope a new STD was the biggest problem you had at shift’s end.
If that was a little too dangerous for you, your only options were to either go back home and rethink your life (doubtful), or shack up with a pimp. If you did shack up, all your cash went straight to him. In return, he would give you a place to live, and a new wardrobe every once in a while, but that’s it. If you didn’t like that, it was either face the wrath of his glorious pimp hand or head back out into the streets.
It was probably inevitable that the oldest profession in the world would eventually make its way onto the internet superhighway. It just makes too much sense not to when you consider how much more lucrative and safer it is to just use Craigslist, or some other web community, instead of night walking. A prostitute who posts an online ad can not only charge anywhere from $60 to $225 per customer (compared to $20 to $50 per customer for a nightwalker), but they can also screen clients, negotiate via email and schedule meetings independent of any abusive pimp.
In the bad old days of Ron Galella and a thousand other douche bags, snapping that perfect shot of a hot celebrity frolicking on a beach or choking down on a greasy 9-inch kielbasa required two things—a camera with a long-zoom lens, and the know-how of “hunting” a celebrity. This meant cruising the streets, soliciting tips from valet parkers and waiters, camping outside only the swankiest nightclubs and restaurants and FBI-style stakeouts outside homes.
The advent of the camera phone has made anybody a candidate to get a shot of Miley Cyrus taking a bong hit, and the rise of networking agencies and sites like Hollywood.tv, TMZ, and x17online.com—all of which collaborate with each other—has made both getting celebrity whereabouts frighteningly simple, and most old-school paparazzi techniques obsolete.
Of course, a generation ago, there was a code among paparazzi that obliged them to at least try to act incognito while they were working, like they were at least halfway acknowledging that they worked one of the sleaziest rackets in existence. But that day is long, loooong gone. Where there was once subdued shame, there is now only money to be made—up to as much as $100,000 a year. That’s enough for anybody to want to follow other people around for a living and need no skills to do so.
Corporate Axe-Men (Downsizers)
The evolution of this guy’s profession has already been chronicled in movie form. The movie was Up In The Air, and the guy was George Clooney. He played a corporate mercenary who got hired out by other companies to fire their employees because they were too chicken shit to do it themselves. That’s basically what an axe-man does.
For as far back as this profession has existed, the real life axe-men had to do it Clooney’s way, which meant using up a lot of frequent flyer miles, hotel room keys and lonely women at hotel bars. They got paid to meet face to face with whomever they were terminating and to let ‘em down in such an expert way so as to assure no loud arguments or machine gun-based reprisals by the terminated.
What flipped this dirty job on its ear was the rise of the videophone in telecommunications technology, as demonstrated in the movie by hot piece Anna Kendrick. It only makes sense to cut travel costs by conducting layoffs via videoconferencing, which means all an axe-man has to do these days is stare at a screen and tell somebody they’ve never met before and won’t see again that their ass is history.
If you wanted to become a terrorist, say, 15 years ago, the onus was on you to travel halfway around the world to militant training camps, a la the Hamburg cell. These were the only places you could get your hands on jihadist literature, learn specific weapons-training and bomb-making skills and get debriefed on who needed to be bombed.
Terrorists are no different than anybody else in that they won’t pass up convenience and efficiency. Convenience and efficiency as in Facebook has 500 million users—more than enough to become a launching pad for easy access to sites that show you how to make IEDs and field-strip AK-47s. Online chat forums linked to Facebook make it ridiculously easy for terrorists to reach out and recruit other wannabe terrorists without ever having to meet in person. You don’t go to them anymore. They come to you.
Facebook, to its credit, does make an effort to screen its own database for names of known terrorist organizations and individuals and removes any content which “infringes or violates someone else’s right or violates the law,” but the information isn’t screened before it’s posted, so it can be seen by those who wait for it pretty easily before it actually gets removed.
It’s alright, Zuckerberg, at least you tried. Go ahead and sleep it off with a supermodel on top of your pile of cash.