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article imageMyspace bans 29,000 sex offenders

By Paul Wallis     Jul 25, 2007 in Internet
Here’s a stat or two. Myspace has 80 million subscribers. Of those, 29,000 are convicted sex offenders. These figures were released by officials from two US states, Connecticut and North Carolina. The previous figure given by Myspace in May was 7,000.
According to the BBC article there are 600,000 registered sex offenders in the US, out of a population of about 300 million. About one in 500 people. The statistical breakdown relative to the Myspace subscriptions assuming the US as average, would mean that about 160,000 offenders would be the expected number to be on Myspace.
Attorney Generals for both states aren’t happy about the numbers they've been able to find. North Carolina proposes parental permission for kids registering on Myspace. Connecticut wants “action”, of what sort is unspecified.
Time, perhaps, for a reality check.
The number of known offenders cannot be the total number of offenders, by definition. Myspace isn’t a law enforcement agency. Their access is at best limited to people whose records are traceable, and even their legal right to obtain that information is debatable. It’s further arguable that people who haven’t been convicted of any offense other than the one for which they were convicted might be being deprived of the presumption of innocence without basis.
You don’t ban the telephone because .02% of the population makes obscene phone calls. You don’t ban the automobile because it kills 20,000+ people a year in the US. Maybe it would make sense if you did, but in both cases, do the people who aren’t breaking the law have to be denied an amenity because of a few people who do?
So much ineffectual crud circulates about protecting kids on the net. Isn’t it about time something a bit more effective than rhetoric started happening? Why not address the cause of the problem, which is the potential for abuse of the medium? Why not limit the possibility of access at the source? Why not come up with something like using the Myspace forums as a record of contact? If accepted as evidence, that would put off at least some predators.
(What’s evidence and what isn’t in any country can be quite hard to establish. Some countries won’t accept electronic media as evidence, some will, some still don’t know, or havent' decided what they can use as evidence. Seems a bit odd, given that it's all on the internet.)
We have a situation where a mass medium is a potential threat. There’s a third party operating the medium. That third party does have both a duty to the public interest, and a duty to law, even if it has no part in the relationship between parties, and no right to intrude on privacy.
(Just for the record, as I understand it, in a Federal case the prosecution can issue a subpoena for much more innocuous things than evidence of a Federal crime, and there’s not a lot of comeback against it, so third party evidence from a website isn’t really avoidable if either side in a legal dispute wants it. Add to this the various disclaimers about “applicable laws” in most subscriptions, and it means any website if required by law can provide evidence.)
I mention this because any email, any SMS, any text message does have the potential to be used as evidence, and someone seems to have missed that fact. I think it would discourage a lot of abuses if that became a bit more obvious.
More about Myspace, Sex offfenders, Law