I've always suspected that social networks -- which allow users to share personal information with friends, strangers, and everyone in between, sometimes unwittingly -- might play a role in episodes of family violence and abuse. But these episodes of violence must still be catalyzed, of course, by old-fashioned human craziness.
Anthony Lozano, 36, of Hanford, California, was arrested over the weekend by Kings County sheriff's deputies on charges of kidnapping, torturing and falsely imprisoning his 23-year-old girlfriend after finding a message from another man on her Facebook page. Suspecting his girlfriend was having an affair, Lozano grabbed her by her hair, choked her with a rope and towel, threatened to kill her, then tied her up for four days, beating her repeatedly -- all with their three-year-old child and her 13-year-old from a previous relationship still in the house -- before she managed to escape and alert the police.
Facebook clearly played a role in these frightening events, but it was a minor one. This is an extreme illustration of a point I've made in the past: We've heard a lot of horror stories involving social networks and their ilk, and we'll probably hear more in the future, but it would be a mistake to think that social networks are the cause. This would be confusing the medium with the uses people make of it, and the fact is, some people have always behaved reprehensibly. Basically, if a tightly-wound, loosely-wired psycho like Lozano didn't have Facebook to set him off, something else would have -- a phone call, a matchbook, or just his own imagination.
The only exception is in cases where the social network in some way facilitates the crime -- for example if location-based services alert burglars when someone is away from home, or tell stalkers where their victims are. In this category I would also include cases of fraud where scammers use fake profiles or impersonate trusted individuals in order to deceive their victims (although you don't necessarily need a social network to impersonate someone).