MySpace Tries To Appease An Important Constituency: Politicians

from the appearance-of-activity dept

MySpace has been stepping up its efforts lately to mollify the concerns of politicians that its site is so dangerous for kids. It's debatable whether its actions will actually make things any safer for kids online, but that's less important than getting the politicians off its back. It announced today its latest move to protect the children by providing software parents can install on computers in their homes to record information about any MySpace account that's logged on to from them. It records the username, and the age and hometown associated with it. While the software's a little smarter than most efforts like this, it's not clear if it's really any more useful. Kids repeatedly prove themselves adept at covering their tracks online and circumventing filters and blocks, and if they can't, they'll just move off of MySpace to some other site. The thing is, MySpace doesn't really care about that -- it's just trying to keep a bunch of state attorneys general off its back, since they're threatening to sue if it doesn't raise its minimum age for members to 16, and start verifying their ages. Never mind that it's awfully hard to verify the age of people under 18, or rather onerous to expect a company to do so for all users when they're not trafficking in goods or services with legislated age limits (such as tobacco, alcohol and porn). Let's focus on a couple of other things. First, these safety concerns are slightly ridiculous. Second, any such restrictions are useless. Slapping age limits on MySpace, should they be effective (which they won't), will just send users elsewhere online to someplace that doesn't care how old they are. The underlying problem isn't specific to MySpace or any other individual site. Clamping down on MySpace, or whatever is the latest popular site, won't help solve the underlying issues at all; it's just squeezing a balloon. Of course, what's the politicians' solution to that? Ban 'em all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 9:03pm

    ack...

    as much as i despise myspace and its lusers, i despise irrational, technologically inept politicians more.

     

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  2.  
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    Tommy 2face, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 9:12pm

    WTF Politician are about saving there own...

    They have been looking for a skate goat for years. Unfortunately AOL was just too big to push around so they go after little old myspace. Aol's chat old chat rooms were notorious for sexual predators. And another thing most kids are more tech savvy than their parents. Some could say the politicians are imbeciles and are the puppets of big business.

     

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  3.  
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    becca, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:13pm

    is everyone stupid??

    My question is 'what about good old fashioned parenting?' Hello!! If parents out there were just a little more (ok, maybe a lot more) aware of what is going on in their childs life then politicians could (in theory) worry about more important issues like global warming and getting our troops home where they belong...

     

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  4.  
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    Jhecht, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:21pm

    People are just stupid

    I agree, age limits, and filters and blocks etc are stupid. Almost every chilld knows of an online proxy they can use so that no one knows they use myspace. If a child has a myspace, its the parents responsibility to know and to ask the child where they are going, if the child says "to meet someone i found on myspace" the PARENT should be the one going "... no, you aren't." and thusly lay down the house-hold law and keep kids safe. Its not that myspace isn't safe, its just that parents are lazy and don't care.

     

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  5.  
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    Jhecht, Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:22pm

    Re: WTF Politician are about saving there own...

    uhm.... Its SCAPE goats, not skate goats dude.

     

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  6.  
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    rijit (profile), Jan 17th, 2007 @ 11:23pm

    Pssst Becca.

    Get a clue. It is not parents fault political types get on this "Save the Children" kick. Time and again on posts like this one, one person, such as yourself this time, starts bellowing about how parents need to do a better job. That may be so but it is not relevant to the topic here, which is politics as usual. Politicians don't care about any of this, they want to be seen as protectors so when elecetions come up they can show everyone they were "For the Children" and beleive no one will vote against them, after all no one wants to be seen as being "Against the Children".

     

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  7.  
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    Jurgonaut, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 2:50am

    Technology isn't always the answer (solution)

    I'm following the American anti-predator thing since a moment now and it really makes me smile out of my good old fashioned Europe.

    MySpace is addressing the problem with a kind of spy-tool-for-parents now. Nice move. But useless.

    Why? Well, I remember me being a kid and my parents (quite some geeks-avant-la-lettre) blocking phone, tv and later on the first computers. As they discovered later on they just left me with some extra challenges. And raised some kind of 'hacker'. Anyhow, I didn't experience much problems in making phone calls, using the TV and doing whatever I wanted with the comp in their absence.

    I'm quite amazed too by the fact neither the social networking guys nor the politicians/parents/whatever against-everything organization sees a possible effective solution for the predator issue.

    I've been working for more than 10 years in this Web business now. Created job search sites, dating sites, role-playing sites and more of that stuff. Some of them became quite big European operations.
    Not that I'm fishing for some self-induced credibility here but one thing I learned hands-on is the fact 'social networking sites' as they're called today will always attract weird people. And yes, some of them are dangerous too. And not only for kids.
    Next thing I learned is the fact those predators will always outsmart your technical 'solutions' or 'answers' too. Not only the kids will break it.

    Which leads me to the solution we found for our latest, French-speaking social networking site.

    The site is fairly small and is up and running since a little bit more than 3 years now. Some 90.000 subscriptions, 4000 simultaneous users at peak-time. A modest operation.

    The nice thing is the fact we provide a quite good protection of our users, be it minors, woman or just every user. Predators are identified quite quickly and removed. Whatever type they are. Even when they try to come back, even using a fake profile. A matter of minutes sometimes to solve the issue, not hours, days of months.

    How do we achieve this? Well, aren't we talking about a 'social networking site' here? About humans with eyes and a brain?
    We empowered our users within their social networking environment. Made them aware about the benefits of getting rid of trouble-makers. We've empowered other 'power users' and allowed them to moderate the whole thing. Not in the autocratic way but in a collaborative, peered manner. We also work with police, lawyers and justice. When you operate a social networking site you have those guys on your site too. And they welcome this type of proactive attitudes (and no, they don't have access to any private data).

    The solution against predators, and other things happening on your site like account hijacking, identity theft, etc, is to empower your users and allow them to clean out the mess themselves, to regulate. Technology won't help. A politician neither. Social control will.

    The Good Guys are always outnumbering the Bad Guys on your site. So it can be a smart move to just build on this fact. And the word 'social' in 'social networking site' can be used for a lot more than just finding a fresh date.

    In my opinion the problem with this type of sites comes from the fact their owner does call it a 'social site' but don't do anything social with it or on it. They even believe they're not concerned or responsible. Which makes my wonder about how they would feel if their kid commits suicide after having sent alert signals for weeks on the site. Or their friends get raped, stalked, mugged or killed. Not even partly responsible?

    As far as I am concerned a social networking site has the moral obligation of also trying to make sure those issues are followed up and taken action on. A social networking site should be operated/managed by more than just a bunch of techies, lawyers, managers and accountants. On a social networking site you have a mindset, a spirit and a community. And social control, awareness, participation. To the benefit of all.

    You have people on it wanting to help you or do it for free too.

    My two cents (I'll send my consultancy bill to MySpace ^^)

     

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  8.  
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    billythekid, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 5:25am

    Re: WTF Politician are about saving there own...

    HAHAHAHA skate goat. before you start putting your 2 cents in know what your talking about!

     

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  9.  
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    ScytheNoire, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 6:00am

    skate goat?

    is that like a goat that skates? i mean, i've never seen a skating goat, that might be worth some money. i bet a skating goat would do great on that tv show, America's Got Talent. i mean, assuming it's an American goat, and not one of those foreign ones.

     

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  10.  
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    Rick, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 11:15am

    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/01/18/ap3340465.html

    "alleging negligence, recklessness, fraud and negligent misrepresentation by the companies." replace companies with "parents" and problem is solved.

    Stuff like this pisses me off.

     

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  11.  
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    SailorAlphaCentauri, Jan 18th, 2007 @ 12:27pm

    Social network responsibility...

    should not lie with the company that provides the software. Period.

    People have been socializing on the Internet since at least the days of MOOs and MODs (my Internet historical knowledge doesn't go back past 1992), and there has always been the potential for abuses to the system. But the key thing here is that people have to be responsible for themselves and their own children. If you aren't communicating or educating a child as to the dangers of talking to strangers in any situation (live or virtual), no amount of social responsibility on the part of the providers is going to do a damn thing to help. I wouldn't be happy at all if any of the social network sites I visit started a whole Big Brother campaign to create a community to be a moral compass for myself or anyone else. If a tool is supplied to be used by the public to create their own space, why the hell should MySpace and the like be there to create an environment that would be 'moral'? Who's morality are we talking about, here? My moral compass? Yours? Pat Robertson's (oh I hope not!)?

    I recall someone complaining about social networking sites because, as he put it, the Internet (in and of itself) is a social network. That being said; what would be the chance of success in a structured network that is supposed to be the protectorate of all who inhabit its electronic walls? People are free to communicate to whomever, whenever, and by whatever means they can access and would just find ways around these hedges. All you'd be doing is protecting a group that needs to be taught to use common sense moreso than to be 'protected'. I'd much rather see teens learning how to stay safe on the Internet than to see social networking sites become police states under the false pretense of 'protection'.

    As to the topic at hand; I'm tired of these limp-wristed governmental desires to do things 'for the children'. Instead of inciting mass-hysteria among the unwashed masses, the government needs to be more concerned about things that are more important than the dangers of MySpace. Like there aren't tons of other sites out there that can be used and abused. NBC used to be on that scare bandwagon by pointing out MySpace as a place to sic Perverted Justice on predators, but virtually none of the people caught in those Dateline specials were caught on MySpace (which resulted in the reporter no longer bringing up MySpace in the reports).

    These things always piss me off, but the added platitudes of one who waves the banner of social network responsibility just really got under my skin today.

     

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