Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MySpace Can't Win... (a continuing saga)

Again, yet another national news agency takes hits at myspace, and again no one sees this as a bad thing. I just dont' get it. MSNBC released news this morning detailing that MySpace did indeed begin to take steps to remove registered sex offenders from it's site, going to far as to actually hire a company, Sentinel, to poll through it's user database and remove all registered sex offenders they could locate. Ok.. this seems like a good step in the right direction, right? Wrong!

Not only did that NOT make the state adn federal authorities happy, but they find even MORE to get on them about. This is ludicrous. If this were my company, I would spend some serious money to take my argument to the public on a televised event... it's not like they don't have the money to do so.

Again, I don't see AOL getting hit with these complaints from it's messenger service, YAHOO people directory doesn't seem to be underfire, why then is MySpace the culprit? It's real easy people! If you can't monitor your own damned children, then get rid of their computer! Don't hold a social networking company responsible for your failure to be a decent parent!

If myspace allows sex offenders on their site, they get sued. If they remove them without notifying the police, they get sued. How about this..  here's an idea for you. Why doesn't myspace send an invoice to all 50 states demanding payment for tracking down their repeat sex offenders for them? Apparently the government can't actually bother to track them down on their own, so they should have to PAY myspace for providing a nice little convenient place for them to all hang out so they can be busted again. Rather than blame myspace for the inactions of parents and government to protect it's citizens, how about DO YOUR DAMNED JOBS YOURSELF and then you won't need to worry about your kids on the web.

What a sick culture we have when people just look for who they can sue, who they can blame, and who they can pass the buck to.


-------------------Begin Story:

In October, Wired News reporter Kevin Poulsen ran a simple experiment that produced some disturbing results. He wrote a computer program that matched databases of registered sex offender with MySpace profiles and found hundreds of matches.

On Poulsen's list: A thrice-convicted sex offender who had recently finished a nine-year jail term for sexually abusing two young boys. It turned out he was using MySpace to approach and proposition young boys. The offender was soon arrested again.

Two months after Poulsen's story was published, MySpace announced it had hired an outside company, Sentinel Tech Holding Corp., to compare registered sex offenders rolls with MySpace profiles and root out sex criminals from the site. Until earlier this month, though, it appeared little progress had been made.

Then, a public spat erupted between a group of state attorney generals and MySpace, with the AGs demanding to know how many offenders the review had uncovered. After about a week of public jousting, MySpace said it had removed 7,000 profiles that might have belonged to registered sex offenders.

The controversy has raised questions about MySpace's diligence in trying to keep predators off its service and its ability to work with some law enforcement officials.

That so many registered offenders were attracted to MySpace, largely a haunt for young Web users, is disturbing to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

"It is a very, very frightening number when you consider they ... are using their real names,” he said. “One would think a convicted sex offender would use an alias. This number is just the most visible tip of the predatory problem on MySpace and other social networking sites."

Why did this rather public controversy over sex offender MySpace pages erupt this month? Curiously, it began when MySpace – often criticized for inaction on child safety issues – took a strong action against registered sex offenders.

Sentinel starts

The initial spark flew on May 2, when MySpace unceremoniously turned on the product developed by Sentinel and began removing profiles from the site.

Within days, the group of attorney general offices already eyeing MySpace policies found out about the deletions and became concerned that evidence of crimes might be destroyed.

"We were rather concerned that we were hearing back channel information about profiles being removed and deleted without us receiving that information," said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. "We need to know which Pennsylvania residents have been identified because of possible terms and conditions of their release that may have been violated."

Some probation agreements prevent sex offenders from using computers at all; others prevent them from any contact with minors. The offenders’ MySpace profiles may have included clear evidence that such provisions were being violated, Frederiksen said.

"Along the way we were hearing that this was a work in progress, that it wasn't ready," he said. "Then in the spring we found out they'd already deleted profiles. That was what motivated the public call to action."

On May 15, eight attorneys general sent a letter to MySpace demanding more information about registered offenders on the site. The next day, MySpace refused to provide the data, saying it could only do so if compelled by a court order. Several states began seeking court orders to obtain the data, but five days later MySpace announced that an agreement had been reached to share the information.

A misunderstanding

To MySpace officials, it was all a misunderstanding. The new system was still being tested when the suspect profiles began being removed, so the company believed there was no need to notify law enforcement, said one MySpace official, who agreed to discuss the matter on condition he not be identified.

And the profile removal process was designed to preserve any evidence law enforcement might subsequently need, the company said.

"In addition to immediately removing registered sex offenders from MySpace, our plans have always been to provide the information collected by Sentinel … to law enforcement, including the attorneys general,” Mike Angus, executive vice president and general counsel for Fox Interactive Media, which owns MySpace, said in a statement.

But the spat likely signals more than concern about deletion of evidence. There is obvious sentiment among law enforcement agencies that MySpace was acting too slowly to remove known sex offenders from the site.

"We were disappointed it’s taken a year to get to this point," Frederiksen said. His office had approached MySpace about the sex offender issue even before the Wired story was published. "We would like to see things move forward in a faster pace."

No national sex offender registry

But company officials say government sex offender registries are to blame for the hold-up.

Because most registries are maintained by state offices and there is no national database, Sentinel had to build a tool that collected information on 600,000 offenders from more than 50 sources, the company said. Because the data couldn't be downloaded from registry Web sites, collecting the data was a complicated project. Building the tool took about 6 months, the official said.

Still, some officials in the various attorney general offices suggested MySpace had another motivation for moving slowly and deleting profiles without informing public officials: quietly removing the offender profiles without drawing attention to the number of convicted sex criminals who lurk on the site.

"In fairness to MySpace, it did take the step of hiring Sentinel … but they are ambivalent about releasing the results," Blumenthal said. "Perhaps they feel it may reflect badly on this site and other sites."

In his October story, Poulsen concluded that matching sex offender registries to MySpace profiles was hardly the most effective tool for improving the site's safety. After all, would-be predators could easily foil such filters by registering with fake names and other information. Blumenthal and other attorneys general are pushing for additional measures, such as mandatory age verification to keep kids off the site altogether.

But the presence of 7,000 registered offenders on the site -- and the time span required to remove them -- raises inevitable questions about MySpace's ability to keep its neighborhood safe.

"The measures taken by MySpace have been baby steps when giant strides are needed," Blumenthal said.


--------------------------END Story

LInk to Original Story

1 comment:

  1. I gotta say this is really sick.. looks like that the power of the courts to intrude into peroples personal lives is becoming more and more blatant.. whats going on???


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