Could Investigating Sexual Predators Be Automated?

from the myspace-mashup dept

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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    James, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 12:37pm

    Gee.. or

    ...we could just ask parents to be more informed about what their kids are doing.. I know I know.. too obvious.

     

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  2.  
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    Sanguine Dream, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 12:44pm

    That may not be too...

    off base. If MySpace started doing background checks they could run into some invasion of privacy issues counldn't they?

     

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  3.  
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    Richard Ahlquist, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:05pm

    Liability

    Joe, the 'legal' reason myspace doesnt want to scan for criminals is in case they miss one. This stems from court decisions that basically state that if an ISP or content provider doesnt EDIT the content for the content then they arent liable for the content. For them to edit out sex offenders per se, they may open themselves to liability of any slip by, commit a crime, and are caught. This is why every ISP in the country can run a NNTP new server without worry over being sued for the content of the *.binaries groups. According to the courts your only liable for user contributed content if you choose to edit that content. That means the safest action is to just ignore it.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:55pm

    if you look at satistics there are more "internet stings" than the real thing going on. Intresting

     

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  5.  
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    A real sex offender., Oct 16th, 2006 @ 2:44pm

    legal

    I'm a registered sex offender. I was 18, my girlfriend was 15. No rape, just not old enough to consent. Just bad judgement on my part and vindictive parents. I have no other criminal record, nor do I have a thing for young girls.

    I'm currently 25, and with the exception of a few 15 year old cousins, I don't have anybody under 21 on my MySpace friends. It's mostly just co workers and college friends.

    I can't wait for the first person to start harassing me, or the banning of my account. It's an easy lawsuit for me to win.

    You can't use the sex offender registry as a means to commit another crime. That is to say, it's a felony to use the registry to get my address and commit a crime against me.

    That includes discrimination. If you're gonna ban me where does it end?

    Flag everybody's account who's been convicted of speeding... so kids don't get into cars with them?

    Dometic abuse.. check. Assault.. check. Drug crimes? Check.

    What about people who've been convicted of giving liquor to minors... Don't want your kids associating with them either.

    How about just educating your kids to NOT request to be friends with that old man? Does your son or daughter really need 3800 friends? That's the problem.

    Take away the count of friends. Get rid of the "i have X friends" contest and your kids won't request to be friends with the old pervert.

    Then, there's no reason for them to approve a friend request from an older man.

    Do we blame the shark if somebody decides to slit their wrists and go swimming with them?

     

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  6.  
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    Just Me, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 3:08pm

    Re: legal

    I completely agree with you. Parents need to take more responsibilty where their children are concerned rather than trying to blame everyone else for their lack of parenting skills. Education is key and common sense, well let's hope one day it will be more common...

    I also agree with limiting the number of 'friends' a person under the age of say 16 or so have on MySpace. I think that would be a good point to bring up to the creator of MySpace (can't think of his name right now).

     

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  7.  
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    -No_one-you_know-, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 3:54pm

    Re: legal

    I agree with you about "Education is key and common sense, well let's hope one day it will be more common" 100%.....but limiting the number of friends you can have if your under 16....is good thinking but if most people on myspace do not use there real name...why use there real birthday?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Gee.. or

    But we're Americans; we don't have to be responsible for our children. It's the media and video games that cause these problems anyway. It's up to corporations to make sure my kids are safe. I don't have time to watch my them anyway so everyone else is obligated to so for me. Idiot.

     

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  9.  
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    Andrew Wells, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 5:25pm

    Parental Contol

    There is a reason why it's called "Parental Control"; it is OUR responsibility to monitor and protect them. That responsibility should be heightened by the dangers that lurk on the internet- it's no different than keeping an eye on your kids when they are playing at the park. Same idea, different tools. Want to get serious about it? http://www.webwatcherkids.com

     

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  10.  
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    Thomas, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 5:56pm

    This is idiotic...

    Seriously this is fucking stupid, ive been writing shit like this for years now just to extract information (aim,yahoo,icq,msn names, email, dob, all that good crap) just to use it to boost my income via myspace and other sites...

    some dude writes scraping code and its a miracle...

    I'm not insulting the good that was done by this, its just Its sad that this hasn't been happening for a long time now, its simple scraping code, nothing more...

    I dont think any credit should be given to anyone who didnt think of this sooner, spammers, marketers and anyone who need demographic/marketing data have been doing this to a multitude of sites for a long long long long time...

    Maybe law enforcement needs to hire some nerds who are true ninjas and not some officer who just happens to claim they are schooled in the ways of the ninja...

    fyi scrwe the spelling comments to follow...

     

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  11.  
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    Andrew Wells, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 6:02pm

    Parental Contol

    There is a reason why it's called "Parental Control"; it is OUR responsibility to monitor and protect them. That responsibility should be heightened by the dangers that lurk on the internet- it's no different than keeping an eye on your kids when they are playing at the park. Same idea, different tools.

    Want to get serious about it? http://www.webwatcherkids.com

     

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  12.  
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    Thomas, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 6:15pm

    Re: Parental Contol

    Seriously though, why rely on on other ppls judgement... we are fucking nerds who read and post here... I wrote a "kiddie browser" for my son which he still uses to this day (untill he turns 8) and at home he is only allowed to browse when i'm on my computer as the software prompts me (with a preview) to approve any url that he wishes to visit...

    saying count on someone else is like hoping your harddrive never crashes... while it might not happen it can... everyone piece of software if breakable... not knockling yer efforts to support a good piece of software, I'm actually agreeing with u about parents need to step the hell up and keep an eye on their kids...

    use 100 pieces? parental control software(s) if ya want, doesnt mean shit... smake yer kid in the butt for doing wrong just one time and it makes all the difference...

    spelling sucking for the win...

     

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  13.  
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    Thomas, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Re: Parental Contol

    God I hate this keyboard....

     

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  14.  
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    Blitze, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 6:53pm

    Parents

    See what 2/3 of you are forgetting is that parents are NOT always responsible enough to even care about their children. Some of them have the myspace and their kids do not.

    As for sexual investigations on myspace, go for it. If they are like your case fine let it go, but if not... arrest them. The whole 18 and younger rule is not right anyhow. You find some people in this world that are 15 and perfectly able to make decisions and some people that are 25 and still driving drunk. Sorry but honestly i just say we shoot all the sex offenders because a lot of times they go to jail.. come out and rape a girl. I know that some don't... but when you are talking about ruining a person's life they shouldn't even need one chance to screw some one's up.

    That's just my view on it, and a good reason why i don't make the laws....

     

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  15.  
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    Thomas, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 7:46pm

    ....

    Majority vs The one... I'd rather be jet lee...

     

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  16.  
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    Ryan, Oct 17th, 2006 @ 6:44am

    Jaws

    anybody ever seen Jaws? You can take away the food supply and the shark goes away, or you can go after the shark and a bunch of people die.

    Just teach your kids to NOT be friends with older people, NOT to play "bait the pedophile", NOT to go meet these older men, and not to want sex from older men.

    Raise your kids right, and soon there won't be anybody for them to prey on.

    It's not like these people are tricking kids. They're saying "hey, 14 year old. I"m 40, wanna get it on?" ... and for some reason kids are saying "yeah".

    Just tell your kids to stay out of the water for a bit, and the sharks will move on.

     

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  17.  
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    Person, Nov 2nd, 2006 @ 12:03pm

    I don't see why people make a big deal about sexual predators on the web. It doesn't make any sense to call a website like Myspace unsafe because of them. Sure, sexual predators a threat to the safety of unwary children on the internet, but they're just as dangerous on the street as they are on the web.

    You wouldn't let your child go wandering through New York City without first warning them of the dangers of criminals, would you? Why should you let them use Myspace without warning them of those same dangers?

    It's up to the parents to keep an eye on their children.

    Guns don't shoot people, people shoot people...

    ...Myspace doesn't prey on children, people prey on children.

     

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