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MySpace vs. Sex Predators

MySpace is hatching a plan to fend off online sexual predators, but will it work?

According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, the social networking site is building a database of sex offenders that will include names, physical characteristics, and other details about those perceived as potential threats. The database will then be used by MySpace administrators to identify and remove registered sex offenders from the online community.

The safety of such sites, which go largely un-policed in regard to content and membership, has long been debated. This appears to be Murdoch’s latest answer to the growing concern of parents, schools, and lawmakers, but is it enough?

Right now, anyone could go to AOL, enter some false information, pick up an email address and then mosey on down the information highway to MySpace where, within a couple of minutes, they could have an account and 136,332,835 people in their “network”. Let the surfing for 12-year-olds begin.

If protecting young people from sexual predators on the Internet was a real priority, it seems a front-end solution would make more sense. Instead of letting everyone join and then trying to chase down the bad guys, maybe MySpace should begin by screening who joins.

It might hurt MySpace’s bottom line, but it would be safer for its users.

Alternatively, maybe more could be done to educate members about potential online dangers. Listing vague acquaintances as “Friends” and total strangers “Cool New People” doesn’t exactly encourage discretion.

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