Friday, January 19, 2007

Please Protect Me Myspace!!

There never seems to be a lack of articles proudly announcing that we are the most uncommonsensical people ever. It staggers me sometimes how people manage to function on a day to day basis without major help. Then again, I read the "Caution: the beverage you're about to enjoy is hot" warning on my hot chocolate, and I begin to understand.

Today's consternation arrives in the form of a lawsuit. The obscenely popular website is facing several lawsuits from parents of the site's users. They are alleging that the website is not adequately protecting their kids from online predators. Why do they make these stunning allegations? According to one report on, "The lawyers who filed the latest lawsuits said the plaintiffs include a 15-year-old girl from Texas who was lured to a meeting, drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an adult MySpace user, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Texas after pleading guilty to sexual assault."

Now hold on a damn minute. I agree that the Internet can be a vulnerable place, and it certainly has its share of perverts cruising sites looking for teens to chat with, look at, and think hideous thoughts about (though, it sounds like Congress is that sort of place too). And there should be some modicum of protection afforded younger members of the Internet, as they can be more vulnerable to that sort of online harassment. But teens who met and were drugged and raped by people they found at myspace? We're not talking about 7-year-olds who don't know any better. If you're 15, you're in high school by that point, and have almost certainly come in contact with various forms of harassment and entreaties. What the hell were they thinking? Who in their right minds agrees to meet someone privately first off after an Internet conversation? Meet at a coffee shop, meet at a bookstore, meet at a mall. Don't meet privately. Hello, is there no remains of common sense?

And where in God's name were the parents during all this? I don't agree that parents should hover over their children's every move online, but some idle questions wouldn't hurt. And certainly if they were going to meet someone, questions should be posed to figure out who, when, where, and why.

I cannot imagine that the fault for this lies with the Internet company. Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said in a statement that Internet safety is a shared responsibility, requiring users to "apply common sense offline safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue." This hits it right on the head. All the new technology in the world these days works as a double-edged sword. It gives you more networking opportunities, ways of communicating with people you thought long gone. But at the same time it also opens you up to a new front of scrutiny, some of which may be unwelcome. What is the solution? Not to force a free company to over amp on their security measures. Instead, it should be an emphasis on personal responsibility and parental guidance that dictates how people act and react to a cyber social life. This is absurd people: take some responsibility for your dumb actions, don't pass the buck onto other people.

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