Last night I attempted to login to MySpace to accept a friend request, but the system wouldn’t let me in. When I attempted again this morning, I noticed that the site had added CAPTCHA (a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human). This form of security only cuts down on spammers, and unfortunately won’t help MySpace and its parent company, News Corp., with some larger issues that have surfaced recently.
The families of four teenage girls in Ohio, South Carolina, New York, and Texas, filed lawsuit against News Corp. and MySpace after their daughters were sexually abused by adults who they reportedly met on the social networking site. The suits allege negligence, recklessness, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation and the families seek millions of dollars in monetary damages.
In response, MySpace is developing “Zephyr,” a tool to help parents track their kids behavior on MySpace. The tool, as reported by the Miami Herald and other news outlets, will alert parents of the username, age, and location a child lists on personal MySpace pages. But the tool will not let parents see password-protected profiles or any communications they have with friends.
MySpace has also expanded its educational efforts and partnerships with law enforcement. There are also now restrictions on how adults contact youth on the site, and tools are in development to identify profiles created by convicted sex offenders.
Linda Criddle, author of Look Both Ways calls MySpace’s safety procedures “feeble,” according to Webuser.
“This ‘safety initiative’, like other recently announced MySpace safety initiatives, is focused on getting more advertising dollars and seeming to comply with US government concerns. MySpace isn’t actually trying to protect consumers in any holistic fashion. If there is no authentication that it will be the parents – and only the parents – who can view the information on a child there is potentially more, rather than less risk”
As for MySPace blocking known sexual predators from creating accounts on the site, Criddle had this to say:
“The only thing the sexual predator email list will do is help MySpace dodge real accountability for monitoring the safety of their site.”
MySpace’s attempts may in fact be feeble. With teenagers moving from one social network to another at lightning speed, doesn’t it seem like there should be an industry standard in place to protect them when they’re on any site like MySpace, Facebook, or Xanga?