One of the number of listservs I have been on for some time now is the WWWEDU list (pronounced ‘we do’), and proudly promoted as “the Internet’s largest and longest-running forum on the use of the World Wide Web in education.” One of the more prominent members of this list is Nancy Willard who is the Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. For many years now Nancy has been working in the area of Internet safety and has been a consultant to many reports in relation to all aspects of internet safety. In addition Nancy has a strong online presence in this area including her blog and the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.
Whenever a new email is sent to the list by Nancy it is always a great read with a rare insightful apprecation of the territory that only an insider can have. So it was when Nancy’s newest missive arrived the other day along with an exhortation to spread the message. Wanting to go further than just forward the email I sent off a reply to Nancy asking if I could forward the email as a blog post. Very generously, (and quickly), Nancy replied in the affirmative. Following then is Nancy’s original message including the direct links to the stories to which she refers. As Nancy said to me please feel free to send this message on.
You might have seen the news. It is exceptionally important that you all understand what is going on here – and the disinformation that is being spread.
Read this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/technology/internet/04myspace.html?
“Almost 100,000 convicted sex offenders mixing with children on MySpace shown by our subpoena is absolutely appalling and totally unacceptable,” Mr. Blumenthal said in a statement. “For every one of them, there may be hundreds of others using false names and ages.”
Do the math. The AG apparently can’t.
“The disclosure renews the debate of whether social networking sites are a haven for sex offenders. “This is just the tip of the iceberg on MySpace,” said John A. Phillips, chief executive of Aristotle, a company that supplies identity and age verification technologies for companies like the New York State Lottery, breweries and film studios.”
Check out this guy’s company. http://www.aristotle.com. He has massive databases of voters that he sells to political candidates. He also uses this database to provide identification services for adult sites. Now, can any of you think about why he might be so eager to be able to track VERIFIED individuals on the social networking sites – being able to merge the interests, activities, and friendship connections with his voter profiles? Think of the power that this would give this company – over our democracy! Oh, yes, on his site, he indicates that he also provides this information to Homeland Security. No lie: http://www.aristotle.com/content/view/48/81/
Also on the same day this article appeared I received a press release from Phillips, who has set up a site to continue the fear mongering about social networking sites. http://www.childonlineprotectionservice.com/ Due to the timing, I am quite certain that there was coordination between the two AGs who are leading this tirade and this guy.
Are you scared enough?
Now look at this article: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-fi-myspace4-2009feb04,0,5305155.story
At the very end: “None of the registered sex offenders found on MySpace have been convicted for actions on the site, Nigam said. Facebook’s statement
said no sex offenders had been convicted of wrongdoing on its site either.”
I have double checked this with the safety folks at both sites. And this is in accord with what I heard when I presented on cyberbullying at a conference for the attorneys general. Some of the registered sex offenders have violated the terms of their parole or probation by being on the Internet/MySpace.
NONE OF THOSE 90,000 REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED FOR USING MYSPACE TO SEXUALLY SOLICIT A TEEN!!! And none of the unknown number of offenders on Facebook have either!!!
Now from the NY Times story:
“The figure is 40,000 more than the amount previously acknowledged by MySpace, according to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who along with Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina are among officials pressing social networking sites to adopt more stringent safety measures.”
What better measures do you want than the measures that have resulted in 100% effectiveness??? The evidence is clear that the combination of protective features on the social networking sites, educational efforts, and the intelligence of teens is working very effectively.
The AGs want the sites to use age and identity verification to require that EVERYONE who registers on a social networking site verifies who they are – and to use this to prevent any adult from communicating with any minor. So the students in high school, when they turn 18, will be considered to mysteriously turn into potentially dangerous sexual predators and will no longer be allowed to communicate with their younger peers. And this will provide protection. WHAT PLANET ARE THEY ON?!
So why should you care?
Because we can’t effectively address the real risks to young people online with such unconscionable deception.
Because this unwarranted fear-mongering by some of the state’s attorneys general is making it far harder for adults to talk with teens about the very real dangers that do exist online. Why should they trust any of us?
Because this unwarranted fear-mongering is also making it very difficult for educators to use Web 2.0 technologies – which are essential tools to prepare students for their future.
I strongly recommend that educators and librarians need to start figuring out how to take some action on this front. I recommend that you work within your state professional associations to make a statement about this that you can sent to your state’s attorney general. I would be happy to provide you with any background – grounded in excellent reports. We have to some how stop this nonsense.
Feel free to send this message to others.