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Cops Walking the MySpace Beat 278

Posted by Zonk
from the hard-to-walk-that-particular-neighborhood dept.
theodp writes "Meet the point-and-click police. Newsweek reports that a growing number of ordinary officers are working a new beat, turning to MySpace to collect clues and crack offline cases. Most of the nabbed wrongdoers have been victims of their own hubris, like the two boys who uploaded video of themselves firebombing an abandoned airplane hangar earlier this month."
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Cops Walking the MySpace Beat

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  • by chrismcdirty (677039) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @06:57PM (#15139804) Homepage
    Most of the nabbed wrongdoers have been victims of their own hubris, like the two boys who uploaded video of themselves firebombing an abandoned airplane hangar earlier this month.

    I was thoroughly disappointed when I clicked that link and saw that there was no video after the site had loaded.
  • Most of the nabbed wrongdoers have been victims of their own hubris, like the two boys who uploaded video of themselves firebombing an abandoned airplane hangar earlier this month.

    Seems like MySpace will not only help cops, but give fodder to Jay Leno's idiot criminals skit or people producing books like The World's Dumbest Criminals [amazon.com] .

    • by wadiwood (601205) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @09:22PM (#15140281) Journal
      http://dumbcrooks.com/ [dumbcrooks.com]

      You don't have to fork out for the book if you don't want to.

      And I got the ref from
      http://www.darwinawards.com/ [darwinawards.com]

      But people who get a darwin award are unlikely to blog about it.
  • idiotnet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:04PM (#15139822)
    Only a dumb ass would post things on the internet.
  • Why I post AC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:05PM (#15139826)
    I behave as though anything I do on the internet will be recorded and saved forever. I'd rather not have to explain something I posted today to a potential employer twenty years from now. Ditto for some nutcase prosecuter with a creative theory about how I caused the war in Viet Nam (I'm exagerating for emphasis).
  • Plain and Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PoitNarf (160194) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:07PM (#15139830)
    By now everyone should be wise enough not to post every single piece of information about them anywhere online, let alone in one place. Parents should be more diligent not with monitoring every single thing their kids do on the computer, but educating them what's ok and not ok to do on the Internet. Am I the only one getting tired of all this MySpace business? On the bright side I was amused reading TFA and seeing how these people were done in by their own sheer stupidity.
    • Re:Plain and Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:16PM (#15139865) Journal
      People who normally, would have boasted about their mayhem/stupidity to their friends, now post it online.

      It never fails to amuse me when people post pictures of their weed, bongs and/or them hitting the bong.

      The only difference between then and now, is that like your friends, the police (or your school, boss, parents) can also go online to see your pictures and videos.
      • Re:Plain and Simple (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ottothecow (600101)
        Going to a school that is recruited heavily by i-banking firms, future employers really want to know the "other side of the story" on their applicants, the one that isnt told to them by the resume and interview process.

        I know that they have been known to hire people with access to the schools facebook (either current employees who are alumni or simply "hey, we will pay you $x for y amount of time with access to your account"). Now that facebook has tagable pictures that are much more advanced than mysp

    • by Shivetya (243324)
      It should not amaze us how stupid a great many people are. Yet at the same time we should be careful what we assign to the category of "stupid". There are many valid reasons to put what you think and do on the internet. The understanding is that there may be reprecussions and for that you must be willing to be subject to them.

      While this deals with criminal activity or intent never forget that laws change and are abused and what may be alright one day may not be the next. Never forget what laws exist in
      • Never forget what laws exist in countries you travel because it isn't far off that you may find yourself in trouble while traveling all because your name showed up in some database because of what you put on the net.

        "it isn't far off"?? How about right now in the USA? In fact, the USA has been like this for years. And if your name is David Nelson [slashdot.org] you don't even need to have an internet presence to be in trouble.

        And anyone who believes "you have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide" [guardian.co.uk] should be locke
    • by vistic (556838) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:29PM (#15139907)
      "Parents should be more diligent not with monitoring every single thing their kids do on the computer, but educating them what's ok and not ok to do on the Internet."


      The problem here, is that you assume that parents possess that sort of common sense any more than their kids do.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:32PM (#15139914)
      Teaching kids what not to do on the internet is not what I am concerned about here. Teaching kids not to go out firebombing old buildings is concern.
      • Teaching kids what not to do on the internet is not what I am concerned about here. Teaching kids not to go out firebombing old buildings is concern.

        Show me the profiles of people that might be later used to screw them out of a job or used by over zelous prosecutors.

        Lets see all those profiles with crime and pictures from spring break.

    • Parents should be more diligent not with monitoring every single thing their kids do on the computer

      Yeah, C'mon parents......teach your kids not to post video after they firebomb buildings. Make those nosey cops find the perpetrators the old fashioned way.
  • This is common... (Score:5, Informative)

    by spangineer (764167) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:08PM (#15139836) Homepage
    This has been going on for awhile, but primarily on Facebook to my knowledge. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], Facebook has been used in numerous investigations, including one last year at my university to catch students who rushed the field. Students had set up groups saying that they had rushed the field, and the police matched pictures from security cameras to student pictures. At least several of them were kicked out of school. Needless to say, this caused quite a scene on campus, but really, what do you expect when you put the information online yourself?
    • Re:This is common... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mpathetiq (726625) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:16PM (#15139866) Homepage
      I work for a small municipality. The code enforcement officer uses Facebook and MySpace to determine if college kids are breaking various residency laws. It's amazing how many people put up actual information on these sites.
    • I'd expect not to be kicked out of school for rushing a field. Thats a little much.
    • by MikeFM (12491)
      If the police are notified that this information is online at such and such place I'm okay with them using it but I don't like them spending time just searching random sites like Facebook and MySpace. To me that smacks of tax payer money being spent so that cops can look at porn and blogs all day just so that now and then they can catch some petty criminals. Let the cops spend their time doing real police work instead of hanging out and just watching for America's dumbest criminals.

      From a privacy point of v
    • According to Wikipedia, Facebook has been used in numerous investigations

      Facebook is a closed system, not just anyone can look. They require a valid college email address to join, and then limit whos profile you can see. How do the police get around those limits, and see ALL the profiles?

      What good is facebook if a police officer graduated from Western Michigan University, but the profile with the incrimination evidence is posted under the profile of someone who went to Michigan State University?

      Does F

      • They can get people who DO have accounts to share it probably. Also, no doubt if they had reasonable suspicion of incriminating stuff online they could serve them with a subpoena.
      • At least one officer at my university, and I assume all of them, had a @university.edu email address. The things are given out like candy on most campuses. Failing that, there is always the "call up Facebook, identify yourself as a police officer, ask for their cooperation" option, which is even easier than asking for the subpoena. Or, if you want to make it reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally easy on yourself, call up the university IT department, tell them evidence of a crime has been passed over their network, an
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is becoming increasingly the case, especially for kids. Crime for many kids is beyond testing limits, it is a feeling of invunerability. I am underage, I am a athelete, I am too smart, they can't arrest us all, the cops can't run fast enough to catch us. So these posting are not merely stupidity, they are a symptom of the narcisistic reckless kid that does not care a whit about anyone else.

      Now, schools who care will monitor the underground chat and try to apply consequences for the small things, i

      • getting away with stealing $20/week? i work stocking shelves but if you get caught stealing even a buck where i work you bet your ass you are getting fired. and if i ran a business it would be the same way. i would specifically allow empoyees to bring home reasonable amounts of office supplies but theft would be dealt with swiftly and severly (automatic immediate termination, contact police and press charges) if someone is willing to steal who says they won't sell sensitive business planning knowledge t
    • What's even scarier are the Christian colleges in the south using myspace to expell [kentucky.com] students who do not necessarily live up to or agree with their college's hyper-conservative model.

      It's sick and disgusting that practices like these are still allowed in the US. Nobody should have to hide who they are. A college expulsion these days is like having a criminal record.
      • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday April 17, 2006 @04:42AM (#15141144) Homepage

        It's sick and disgusting that practices like these are still allowed in the US. Nobody should have to hide who they are.

        It's sick and disgusting that the government should be allowed to determine who can and can't be a member of a private organization. Do you think it would be fair for the government to force a church to admit someone who likes sacrificing chickens to Satan during his free time?

      • by MikeBabcock (65886)
        Its a private hyper-conservative college.

        Duh.

        If you don't belong, and you want to weasel your way in, then get caught, don't be surprised they aren't happy about it.

        Go to one of those colleges that actually fits your standards instead.
  • YRO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:13PM (#15139854) Homepage Journal
    I'm not quite sure why this is under YRO; it's certainly news worth, in my opinion, but why YRO? Are we saying that the police are crossing a legal boundry by looking at MySpace pages? Maybe it's this line:
    By conducting such surveillance, says Electronic Privacy Information Center senior counsel Chris Hoofnagle, an officer risks crossing "the line between crimes that have been committed and crimes that haven't. Next he'll be sucking down information just in case he needs it--and that's the type of action that upsets a user's rights."
    If they were installing hidden cameras, taping phones, or installing keyloggers without cause, I really don't see the problems. If you can get a heads up about someone robbing a house tomorrow night because they were stupid enough to post it on MySpace, why should that be considered protected?

    If someone painted a sign saying "I've stolen three cars from this street!" and wore it on said street, is there any reason the cops can't at least stop and question him (even if he denies anything vocally) and check up on him later?

    As far as legal requirements for police goes, there's a "Plain View" clause (I'm sure there's a Latin term for it.) For the few who may not understand, it basically says that if the item is in plain view, it can be used. If the cops respond to a noise complaint at your house, look past you into the home, and see a meth lab, they can use that. They may not be able to bust in right away to arrest you (varies by state and circumstance), but they can call up a warrant PDQ. If they pushed their way into the house without cause, or just shoved you to the side to see it, it would most likely be inadmissable.

    In the case of the meth lab and the robbery, both are due to horrible stupidity on the perpetrator's part, and there really is no reason they should be protected because of it. If the cop is stalking someone on their MySpace page because s/he doesn't like their choice in music, and wants to make sure they don't decide to steal a CD of it or something, then we might have cause for worry, but this is more likely something done by the common public than by the police, who hopefully are out catching badies and don't have enough time to track every movement on MySpace.

    Now, as far as some smaller things go, like stealing CDs or smoking MJ, they can't just take the MySpace page and present that as conclusive evidence; they'd have to get other evidence (like the CD or MJ itself) to prosecute. Could it be enough for a warrant for the other evidence? Maybe. I think that's a legal battle that will come up, because you can't be sure if they actually did it or they're (erronously) trying to look cool for their interweb friends by posting it.

    As with much of the internet (which has brought on a lot of problems really fast,) the law is still trying to catch up, and things like MySpace, LiveJournal, and perhaps even sites like Slashdot and Fark could play a role in some big trials in the next 5 or 10 years, especially how global information is received and used in criminal cases.
    • Anything that happens in public space is potentially viewable by anyone, ergo it is in the public domain and there is no expectation fo privacy. So far, so good.

      Now, how would you feel if every square inch of this public space was being constantly monitored by closed-circuit cameras whose feeds are reviewed by police officers? I know how I would feel. Not so hot about it, to say the least. Now is the monitoring technically invading the privacy of anyone? As far as the law is concerned, no. It is stil

      • Now, how would you feel if every square inch of this public space was being constantly monitored by closed-circuit cameras whose feeds are reviewed by police officers?

        If it were the government setting up the cameras or website, I'd say that you'd have a dead-spot analogy.

        However, this is more like someone else setting up the cameras, and the police just using them. Say, a mall installs cameras to satisfy those worried about safety. The cops think that someone is in the mall that they are looking for, or tha
      • Now, how would you feel if every square inch of this public space was being constantly monitored by closed-circuit cameras whose feeds are reviewed by police officers?

        Good question; I'm sure there's at least one brit who posts to this site; let's ask them how it feels.

      • Take my word for it (I'm over fifty, and grew up in a small town), kids have been committing vandalism and bragging about it to their friends for a looooong time. The difference between now and 35 years ago is now they can brag to 66 million "friends" on MySpace about it.

        I didn't watch the video, but what they're calling firebombing sounds to me like vandalism-- the property was abandoned and deserted and no permanent damage was done. Vandalism isn't new. The cops' getting leads from the "friends" isn't n

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:59PM (#15140017)
      If you can get a heads up about someone robbing a house tomorrow night because they were stupid enough to post it on MySpace, why should that be considered protected?

      Back in 1999 or 2000, Audi brought back the S-series of cars in the USA with a performance version of the A4 sedan- the S4. It was a twin-turbocharged V6, and it was faster than the BMW M3- the yardstick at the time. As with many turbocharged cars, manufacturers don't push the limits of these engines for a lot of different reasons; insurance categories, "gentleman's agreements" on speeds or horsepower levels, reliability, stepping on other model lines, room for "improvement" in next year's model, etc. There's plenty of room for a "tuner" to release revised "chips" (tables used for fuel, timing, and boost pressure levels stored in [E/EE/P]ROM memory) that increase horsepower levels. The S4 biturbo reliably makes slightly over 300HP with a chip (from 250); my '91 Audi makes almost 280 (from 217. And it has done so for about 100,000 miles with no problems. It was chipped at 110,000 miles, so yes, some chips are perfectly fine.)

      Chip makers pushed the limits to offer the "best" chips- or did shoddy testing, rushing development, to be first-to-market. A few of the chips could overspin the turbos, and a couple people grenaded them.

      Dealers were wise to "chips" and would look for them if a car with damaged turbos came in (and Audi implemented various controls to make ECU-swapping much more difficult, but they've all been circumvented.) US warranty law prohibits them from blaming a failure on an aftermarket component unless they can prove reasonably that the changed component caused the failure; a chip is a pretty damn clear-cut case. So these kids (and many of them were in fact kids- rich off internet dot-coms, or mummy and daddy) would borrow a friend's stock ECU, put it in the car, and have it towed to the dealer and say "gee, I dunno what happened."

      Then the geniuses would go on Audiworld and brag about how they "tricked the dealer", complete with thumbs-up and grinning smiley icons, people congradulating them, etc. Someone at Audi Client Relations noticed (or was tipped off by people pissed at the scam), and ACR started surfing the forum regularly looking for fraud, and -completely- voiding the warranties of those they could find and in some cases going after owners for the cost of repairs, and postings in forums were cited as evidence. I don't remember if anyone was sued or not- I believe a few were.

      That wasn't shocking; what was shocking was the reaction from the Audiworld users. They were absolutely livid that Audi Client Relations DARED to "snoop" on "their" forum.

      It's not just the Internet- it has been my personal experience that few people take responsibility for their actions and many are infuriated when someone catches them doing something wrong, instead of being ashamed.

      • I think the real crime is that car manufacturers are even allowed to offer non-warranty after sales service. I know that must sound kinda crazy. I mean, who knows better how to fix the car than the manufacturer right? But if car owners are willing to allow them to charge for after sales service, I hardly think they can complain when the manufacturers diliberately hide flaws in the vehicle and information that can be use by third party repairers. Think about it, if car owners were to refuse all non-warra
    • Re:YRO? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Agent Green (231202) *
      It's easy why this is in YRO:

      "You have the RIGHT to remain silent."

      The best part is that you don't even need to be under arrest. You just need to learn when to shut up.
  • by Rooked_One (591287) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:13PM (#15139856) Journal
    if you wanted to profile a group of people (ie people around the age of 15-30) it would be very easy to set up a free service, where you can post all kinds of neat stuff about yourself. You know - the pictures of your underage friends drinking, hitting a bowl, and who knows what else.

    I guess it does fall under the free information clause, but IMVHO I don't think anything found on there should be admissable. After all, how hard is it to falsify a myspace account?

    • I guess it does fall under the free information clause, but IMVHO I don't think anything found on there should be admissable. After all, how hard is it to falsify a myspace account?

      It's easy to falsify, sure, but it gives police clues. The evidence from myspace itself probably wouldn't be admissable, but police realize that getting information there can lead to new leads that are admissable. Or they just get the people to admit that they did it, which I suspect is more common.
    • I don't think anything found on there should be admissable. After all, how hard is it to falsify a myspace account?

      It's trivial to falsify a myspace account, but it's not like you can't find reasonable proof that an account is authentic if need be (friends' testimonials, logs of which IPs are used to sign into the account, etc).

      Furthermore, in the case of video or photographic evidence (particularly video evidence) it would be difficult to frame somebody. Sure, photos can be altered, but it's not foolproo

  • by E8086 (698978) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:16PM (#15139862)
    If you're dumb enough to post incriminating material on the internets you deserve to get caught.

    Next time in the land of the SIMs...I mean MySpace.
    yes, there should be and probably will be more than enough investigation into tips/leads found there BUT you know there will be enough bored teenagers and even some others trying to "frame" the more/less popular kids and school yard rivals, that whole libel/slander/romour mill thing.

    Sure there's a chance of a good hit once in a while, just watch out for the false positive. Especially all those energetic prosecutors wanting to make a name for themselves even at the cost of a questionable guilty verdict and an innocent kid's freedom.

    Near worst case, but possible
  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:16PM (#15139863)
    If you're sad enough to not realize the implications of making the wrong that you caused publicly viewable, you deserve whatever punishment received.

    Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net] -- A workout plan that doesn't feel like homework.
  • by gearmonger (672422) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:39PM (#15139939)
    So you're suggesting that my recent investment in the social networking sites BankHeistSpace.com and WillTradeKiddiePornVids.net is a bad move?
    • So you're suggesting that my recent investment in the social networking sites BankHeistSpace.com and WillTradeKiddiePornVids.net is a bad move?

      Actually, the ad revenue you'll get from ads if you target them at law enforcment should be enough to feed a family of four and the dogs.
  • by buvic2 (539634) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @07:53PM (#15139989)
    "Next he'll be sucking down information just in case he needs it--and that's the type of action that upsets a user's rights."

    Maybe forgotten, but that's part of what police work is about. You walk the beat, get to know the population, learn the patterns, and when something happens you probably have some idea already of where to look or who to talk to. It's the whole idea behind having regular community / school / campus officers rather than having patrols by whatever unit happens to be around.

    Having been on the inside of digital police work, we should be damn happy that people leak information and hubris, and are generally clueless as far as digital security is concerned. People get caught through their own sloppyness and boasting, and hours of hard work from officers, rather than from the police being particularly technologically advanced. The referenced article is another example of this: regular officers spending time going through lots of potential evidence rather than advanced technoly.

  • by Giant Ape Skeleton (638834) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @08:07PM (#15140047) Homepage
    ...the perps apparently escaped on what they called "LOLerskates".

  • LA Times Article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @08:36PM (#15140115)
    Here's an LA Times article from a paranoid MySpace Mom who spies on her daughter for fear of those pedophiles the idiot box keeps talking about. [latimes.com] Best parts are the Mom doesn't understand private profiles, and asks her friends about the site before looking at it herself. And then she bans her daughter from the one form of Internet activity she can easily track. Now her daughter is banned from MySpace but we're all sure she won't be using IM and web-mail, right?
  • by ehrichweiss (706417) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @08:46PM (#15140152)
    are walking... Some of the cops in my town got busted for posting inappropriate material [newsbank.com], like discussing a high profile case. The link isn't the original story as they charge $2.95 to view anything older than 7 days(lame, I know) but it does have some interesting facts.

    So Barney Fife and Roscoe P. Coltrain if you're listening...some of us are watching.

  • Besides the usual: "they asked for it by doing it and posting" yada yada?

    From the MSNBS article:
    A searchable, public scrapbook of images, affiliations and written exchanges, it offers detectives raw data on 70 million potential suspects, witnesses or victims (Facebook.com has also served as a source of info, though it is limited to users on college campuses). MySpace has good reason to cooperate with the cops.

    Seems that police is getting some kind of back-door to get "raw" data.

    If police uses the norma

    • This is no different than any other cop going undercover to bust a car theft ring or the mob. As long as they do not encourage others to act in a criminal manner or partake in criminal behavior themselves then I see nothing wring with this.
    • Seems that police is getting some kind of back-door to get "raw" data.

      Facebook has a lot more controls on who can see the user data, building little barriers around individual schools and so on, it would be more of a candidate for special police back doors, but myspace is completely wide open except for when it comes to underage users. Once you register on myspace, you have access to everyone else. Now, the police my want a special database api back doors and so on so they can do wholesale monitoring of m
  • 5-0! 5-0! (Score:4, Funny)

    by AndyLandrews (954055) <andylandrews@gmail.com> on Sunday April 16, 2006 @08:59PM (#15140201) Homepage
    Well, crap. Now I gotta go change my MySpace profile. Are the cops checking Blogger, too? I hope not. What's the usual sentence for third-degree yoinking and aggravated shenanigans?
    • What's the usual sentence for third-degree yoinking and aggravated shenanigans?

      IANAL but I think that would probably fall under "Criminal Mischief", which is probably different depending on the state you're in.
  • This is good stuff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frostoftheblack (955294) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @09:36PM (#15140317) Homepage
    I do not feel the least bit threatened by this at all.

    This is just yet another reason why I refuse to get a MySpace account. People need to learn their lesson that whatever they post on the Internet is public. Even if it's labelled "private", it's still public. MySpacers have the "look at my page now" attitude whenever it comes to their friends, but when it's someone they don't like, it's a "get away from me, you're trespassing on my privacy" attitude.

    As for police investigations, I'm all for it. Personally I'm sick of people posting illegal material on their MySpace, glorifying it, and getting the respect of every other junkie who is lucky enough to see it. Illegal things should be investigated and prosecuted.

    As for the legality of searching on MySpace, I pull up this quote from my government textbook (Government By The People, by Burns). I hope it's relevant: "Police may make warrantless searches in public places if the offers have probable cause, or at least a reasonable suspicion, that the persons in question have committed or are about to committ crimes. No later than two days after making such an arrest the police must take the arrested person to a magistrate so that the magistrate, not just the police, can decide whether probable cause existed to justify the warrantless arrest. Probable cause however does not except in extreme emergencies justify a warrantless arrest of people in their own homes...Not every time the police stop a person to ask questions or to seek that person's consent to search is there seizure or detention requiring probable cause or warrant. If the police just ask questions or even seek consent to search an individuals person or possessions in a noncoercive atmoshpere, there is no detention".

    Once the average person realizes that everyone watches everything on the Internet, then we won't have problems like this. The amount of information one can glean on someone or about a certain event through MySpace and through various search engines is astounding. But most people don't have the common sense to know that.
  • There's a certain special thing about people getting caught for openly bragging about what they did.... Has prevented a lot of school shootings probably....
  • by General Lee Cynical (968858) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @11:09PM (#15140582)
    "Hey, you're supposed to be working, what are you doing browsing profiles of 16 year old girls on MySpace?"

    "I...er...I'm...um...I'm looking into possible crimes that these teenagers may have committed. Right. That's what I'm doing."
  • Dude... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkNemesis618 (908703) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @11:09PM (#15140583) Homepage
    I'll keep this short & simple.

    If you're going to do something illegal, don't tape it, don't take pictures of it, don't write about it, and most of all...don't post it on the internet. Does common sense even exist anymore?

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