It turns out, Craig Lynch may very well be the John Dillinger of the new age. I jokingly made a similar remark when first reporting on Lynch’s fugitive protagonism, but weeks later the story is still very real. And Craig Lynch? He’s growing in popularity.
Months after escaping a low-security prison outside of Suffolk, England, Lynch began to gain attention as a criminal on the run. the attention came from his updated statuses on his Facebook profile. Now with thousands of people following him on Facebook and MySpace, Craig Lynch has become the modern version of a folk hero.
Lynch himself is even beginning to become more bold with his social networking activity. Recent status updates blatantly taunt the police, saying they’re not too bright, as they’re still unable to locate Lynch’s whereabouts. Lynch is even posting photos of himself,daring anyone to call 999, the British version of 911, to report on his social networking activity.
The problem for the police, however, is chasing down a virtual entity. Even clues given via his status updates could very well be intentionally misleading, sending law enforcement on a wild goose chase. Historically, criminals that find ways to taunt the police have been able to do so without recognition, and without public support. Even those like Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, who were met with a good amount of public acclaim, were unable to gain the type of following that could occur as a result of taunting the police out in the open.
It’s an interesting factor to consider, given our giant social experiment called the Internet. The interface of our computers and mobile devices separates us from several tangible aspects of social interaction, preserving an anonymity that could prove helpful or debilitating. It’s a different kind of consciousness that drives us to new kinds of conformity and accountability.
The Washington Post outlines how some fans feel that the activity on social networking sites such as Facebook could be a new way for fugitives to remain connected to the real world. Having to live a life on the run, a fugitive could end up in one very lonely state. Keeping others updates and communicating on a certain level with other people may be an unconsidered factor of the modern criminal.
Whether or not law enforcement will be able to take advantage of this virtual activity is another matter. As social networks become more central to our daily activity, the information shared on the web could eventually become more susceptible to investigation, as telephones have in recent decades.
Virtual environments are becoming increasingly linked with other aspects of our physical lives, including our bank accounts and our GPS location. From a legal perspective, it is rather likely that authorities will one day be able to work their way into our social networking activity from external access points.