MySpace and Facebook sex predators

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online-safety.jpgADOTAS — Sex predators surfing online is nothing new, and social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and others can be fertile ground for unsavory characters.

But I think the reaction in the blogosphere that there are potentially ten of thousands of predators trying to lure young, insecure, naive people out is slightly flawed. The link that because there are apparently 90,000 convicted registered sex offenders on MySpace, and many migrating to Facebook, does not mean that 90,000 or more users are in danger or that all the responsibility should fall on the sites.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper can dispute a report that was ordered by Cooper of North Carolina and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led a coalition of 49 states that were pushing MySpace to add technology to verify the age of its members, but it won’t change the results. The attorneys general said the verification will help keep younger children off the site, and prevent contacted with sexual predators.

Except the evidence doesn’t back that view. The report said “a combination of technologies, in concert with parental oversight, education, social services, law enforcement, and sound policies by social-network sites and service providers, may assist in addressing specific problems that minors face online.”

The report says that age verification technology is flawed and will not protect children from online dangers. It will create a false sense of security; it’s not a background check; it’s a threat to privacy, and will seriously misallocate resources.

It’s one thing to say that social networks need to oversee abuse of their sites, it’s another to say that MySpace and others must do the job of law enforcement and parents.

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