MySpace Security Measures are NOT Enough
I was contacted by the New York Times today over the MySpace law suit and security changes that I mentioned yesterday. This is the email I received over my morning coffee:
Greetings - Tom Zeller at the New York Times here. Just stumbled onto your BlogBloke blog as I was surveying various reactions on the Web to the Myspace lawsuit filed this week, and wondered how you would answer those on the other side of the debate, who argue that Myspace or more generally, technology — isn’t really the problem in such cases. They say it’s people — the parents, for instance, or the predators and the pedophiles.
In an e-mail, one gentleman suggested to me that it makes no more sense to sue MySpace for this girl’s plight than it does to sue the manufacturer of the car in which the assault took place. Both made the assault possible, but neither are to blame.
I’d love to get a couple sentences from you expounding on the topic, if you’d care to go on the record.
For the Record, this is my Response:
The fact that MySpace has initiated so-called security enhancements in light of a recent lawsuit indicates that better security is and was available.
Competitor social network sites such as Imbee have taken advantage of MySpace’s problems by offering more secure blogging tools for kids. So there is no question that it can be done, so long as they have the wherewithal to do it.
Unfortunately it has taken a law suit to initiate change. But when it comes to the safety of our kids no expense should be spared or stone uncovered. Especially, we should not be leaving it up to the courts or the online hucksters to protect our kids.
It’s Up to Our Elected Representatives:
Our elected legislators should be taking the initiative against predation on the internet. Initiatives such as forcing social networking sites to ensure that children who sign up really are children, and not just adult predators masquerading as kids.
If financial services such as the banks and PayPal can take precautions requesting ID, why then can’t MySpace? And how about requiring parental consent for adults that are attempting to contact kids?
Responsible Use of Technology:
These are just suggestions and I’m not pretending to have all of the answers. But for anyone who would argue that “it makes no more sense to sue MySpace for this girl’s plight than it does to sue the manufacturer of the car in which the assault took place. Both made the assault possible, but neither are to blame”, I would say this…
A car is a machine that was created for the sole purpose of driving - not date rape. But as a society do we not still take measures to make certain that our technology is safe, or at least as safe as possible? Or in this case that our vehicles are roadworthy.
If an addict’s preferred method is mainlining heroin, do we sue the needle manufacturers? Of course not, because it was intended to put medicine - not poison into our veins.
But do we not also try to prevent addicts from becoming users in the first place? Do we not make laws to protect the weak and the innocent? Of course we do. We create laws banning such substances as well as those who would push the drugs onto our kids.
Intended Use of Technology:
This is a subject not only just about the technology itself or the responsible use of it… but rather, it is also about the intent that is behind the purpose of the technology.
In other words, social networks like MySpace have taken ordinary blogs to the next level as a technology created for one purpose only — to enable and encourage people (in this case kids) to interact.
I would therefore expect them to have no less security measures than a supervised school playground.
It is incumbent upon those who create the technology, (especially sites that pander to and exploit kids), to have built-in safeguards that protect our kids from online predators. That is just common sense and I shouldn’t even have to say it.
There is no question that parents must also shoulder their responsibility, but it is not reasonable to put all of the responsibility on them and let the online hustlers off the hook.
Sure, there are always ways to get around security, BUT so long as the MySpaces et al have taken every precaution to protect the kids, then at least they have done what they can and mitigated their liability. But clearly to date they have not done that, and that is just irresponsible and unacceptable.
Where there’s a Will, there is also a Way:
The technology and capability is there, and it is just a matter of having the desire to do it. If MySpace can make millions off our kids, that is not all that much to expect of them.
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