How many times have you received a picture from a friend taken with his/her phone, clicked on a mobile upload on Facebook or a twitpic via Twitter, and laughed until tears rolled from your eyes? Perhaps you’ve posted pictures of people unknowingly on social media websites for the world to see. A woman with a less than desirable shape, or maybe an older guy who committed a “fashion don’t.” It’s likely that many of us have participated on either end, if not both.

It’s all fun and games until you click on a link, only to see a corpse lying on the pavement.

Last night my Twitter timeline lit up with tweets about the death of Messy Mya, 22-year-old New Orleans Youtube sensation and bounce music artist. He was shot around 8 p.m., according to reports, while leaving his girlfriend’s baby shower. Though news outlets are reporting his death, New Orleans news sources have not yet released his government name.

Known for his humorous antics, Messy Mya, an openly bi-sexual man, is most known for his “Messy Cam” and “bookin,’” or ridiculing random people in the New Orleans area, including outing other bounce music artists, drag queens and other members of the LGBT community. To date, his Youtube channel has nearly 200,000 views, and his fan base was growing by the minute.

To add insult to injury, an onlooker posted a picture of his body on Twitter. Followers, and those not familiar with Mya alike, were outraged. Aside from addressing the blatant disrespect for Messy Mya and his family and friends, his death brings several issues in social media to light:

Privacy Issues
How would you feel if your picture was circulated on a social media site without your permission? Morality aside, is it legal to post pictures of others, in this case, the deceased, on social media sites? Let’s examine a couple of the most popular image-sharing applications:

Twitpic notes the following security precautions on its website:

“If you submit such information for display in public areas, Twitpic cannot prevent it from being used in a manner that violates the law, your personal privacy or your safety. By submitting such information for display in public areas, you assume the risks and sole liability arising as a result of such information being displayed.”

-via Twitpic.com

Yfrog.com categorizes image-sharing “abuse” as posing pornographic files, those that show illegal activity in the United States, or infringe on the copyrights of others or violate privacy. The terms and agreement also notes the following:

“All information provided by the user is strictly confidential. However, ImageShack reserves the right to release user information if user has violated the ImageShack Terms of Service, if the user has committed unlawful acts, if the information is subpoenaed, or if ImageShack deems it necessary or appropriate.”

However, ImageShack also says that users use the application at their own risk. In short, yes, circulating photos is legal, but at a cost. When we press the “Tweet” or “Submit” button, we take full responsibility for the photographs we send, with the right for our files to be used in a court of law. Consider that the next time you want to get a few laughs.

-via Yfrog.com

Public Relations
Without fail, Twitter proves to be the best publicity agent. Messy Mya was the #1 trending topic on Twitter within an hour of his death, and continued to trend until mid-afternoon today, thanks to fans, as well as those inquiring about who he was. At that moment, he was the national star he claimed he would be in his videos, despite some truths and rumors circulating about his cause of death. Around 3 p.m. (EST) today, a friend tweeted that the persons responsible for death were in custody, though no official statement from authorities has been released.

In light of the recent suicides due to cyberbullying, this issue must be addressed. As of late, social media is being used to combat the abuse through online petitions, but social media is also a primary cause of it. Though the cause of death has not been confirmed, many speculate that someone who was the butt of Messy Mya’s “bookin’” sought out revenge, resulting in his death. If rumors are true, how do cyberstalking and defense fit into this picture?

According to StopCyberbullying.org, cyberbullying only occurs when children are involved on both sides via the Internet and/or interactive and digital technologies, including mobile phones. It’s officially cyberstalking when adults over the age of 18 become involved. These unfortunate events may possibly prove that there’s a fine line between poking fun and defense gone too far.

There are many questions to be answered about the role social media sites play in unfortunate events. We, as users, must make a conscious effort to police ourselves, more so than others.

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