There's quite a bit of hysteria surrounding MySpace and the presence of sexual predators on the site. But while it's pointless to say that MySpace, by itself, is dangerous, it's true that the site does have its share of miscreants looking to prey upon its youthful clientele. This is both a danger and an opportunity. The danger is clear; the opportunity is that the site can provide a way casting a net to catch attackers. Kevin Poulsen, has an interesting perspective on the site, having written a computer program that compares MySpace's user list to the national registry of sex offenders. The effectiveness of the program is limited by several factors including the presence of false positives (people who share a name with someone on the list) and the fact that many people don't use their real names when registering with the site. But, the article does discuss one arrest that was a direct result of his work. What's odd is that MySpace claims it's not legally able to scan its membership for known criminals. What seems more likely is that the site doesn't want to deal with the issue, and all the headaches that come with it. And in the company's defense, it's not clear that the company has an obligation to do this, just as ISP's shouldn't be held responsible for the activity on their networks. Perhaps the best course would be for MySpace to encourage more third parties to develop safety tools, enabling them to alert the authorities. And while MySpace does have its lurking threats, it seems safer to have them on a site like this than on underground chatrooms and messageboards where predators may reside.
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