Last week Larry Magid and I co-wrote a commentary that ran in the San Jose Mercury News Sunday. Hundreds of news outlets worldwide had picked up the story that MySpace has deleted the profiles of 29,000 registered sex offenders. The news may have been shocking to a lot of parents of teen social networkers, so we felt parents deserved some perspective on this. Here’s a slightly condensed version of what we wrote….
Finding and expelling sexual predators from social Web sites – something MySpace says it now does routinely – is a good thing. Other social sites are similarly cooperating with law enforcement. But this announcement from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (see General Cooper’s “Protecting Children from MySpace,” a link under “What’s New” on his page) was only possible because MySpace took the initiative to develop a law-enforcement tool the federal government called for in a recently passed law but failed to create: a national sex offender database that MySpace then donated to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for broader use.
So let’s keep these scary predator announcements in perspective. We want parents to have the facts so they can remain calm. When parents (and officials) overreact and start banning things, kids just go underground – as they have since the beginning of time. Only now they can do so online too – on hundreds of social networking sites, in IM, on phones and all sorts of other devices and at proliferating connection points in parks, libraries, cafes, and at friends’ houses.
As of this writing, there were more than 600 links in Google News to coverage in multiple countries of the North Carolina attorney general’s announcement. That was just the start. The story has continued to unfold, so here’s a sampler of coverage: