by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 13th 2009 11:23pm
Mark alerts us to the news that Illinois has approved a new law that bans registered sex offenders from social networking sites. Now, I have no sympathy for anyone who uses a social networking site to approach kids for such nefarious purposes, but this seems like a rather broad brush for a variety of reasons. First, considering how many sites have added "social networking" features lately, this could block out a rather large portion of the internet. Hell, just recently Google announced new social features for its iGoogle homepage. Second, the vast majority of registered sex offenders weren't convicted of trying to entice a kid via a social network. Completely blocking all of those people from social networks seems rather pointless. Finally, the whole idea that social networks are some sort of breeding ground for predators is a moral panic made up by the press. Studies have shown that the common story of a predator getting online, pretending to be a kid, and befriending "targets" and "grooming" them is mostly a myth. That's not to say it hasn't happened, but it's quite rare, and the best way to deal with it is simply to educate kids on how to deal with strangers. Most are smart enough to deal with the issue on their own. But, of course, that doesn't make for good headlines for politicians who want to make sure everyone knows they're "protecting the children."
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