The year is 2035. Joe Smith stands in front of the United States Senate, subject of a confirmation hearing for the post he has sought all his life:
Camera cuts to Senator Archibald Huffenpuff [R], looking self-important and slightly bored.
Huffenpuff: Mr. Smith are you now or have you ever been a member of the web site called [checks notes] MySpace.com?
Cut to Joe Smith, in a sharp suit.
Smith: Yes sir.
Huffenpuff: In what capacity?
Smith: Well, while running for office several years ago, we used myspace.com/joe-smith-in-30 as part of our grassroots campaign to…
Huffenpuff: Have you ever used any other usernames on this site?
Smith looks moderately confused by the question.
Smith: I don’t particularly recall, Senator.
Huffenpuff: Have you ever used the name el-guapo-suave?
Smith: Ah, yes. I used that name during school.
Huffenpuff: Do you recall comments made then about circuit judge Mary Jones?
Smith blanches, clearly confused
Smith: Back then? I didn’t even know who she was then, Senator.
Huffenpuff: Let me refresh your memory. In 2008, she was fifteen years old and went by the user name meow1kittens15.
Huffenpuff: You left comments on her page when she posted a picture of herself in her cheerleader uniform.
Sensing Smith’s discomfort, the camera slowly zooms in.
Huffenpuff: Specifically, you said of the then underage Mary Jones, and I quote “I’d tap that” and “omfg u r so h0ttt!!!11!1”. Are these your words, sir?
Camera cuts to a closeup of a white cat with blue eyes and a diamond necklace, being pet by Rupert Murdoch (indirect owner of MySpace) in his orbiting space station.
Murdoch: Bwah-ha-ha-ha! You should have paid up, Mr. Smith.
Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are already being used for blackmail, but I can’t help but suspect that blackmail is actually their entire reason for existence. This is the only reason I can find to explain why Faceberg still gets investment capital in spite of having no visible business plan or prospects. It may also explain why Facebook removed a third-party application that let its users stab each other: it was cutting in on Facebook’s action.
Expect to see this type of thing show up in government more often, along with services that will eliminate incriminating web evidence. One interesting aspect of this will be the collateral damage created. For example, in my fictional example above, a plot intended to take down Smith would probably also take down Mary Jones by also exposing her teenage escapades.