Monday, January 22, 2007

Myspace is Sued


An internet phenomenon.

A social networking site, which is free to use, Myspace enables you to create a 'page' which features your pictures, profile and personal information. You can add your 'friends' with links to their pages and search online for people who share your interests, tastes or live nearby.

Its a dating website, homepage, networking site and CV all rolled into one and currently has over 100 million members enrolled from all over the world.

The stories about Myspace are legendary.

Like the poor girl who sent in her CV for a great entry level position with a multi-national - only to lose out when they 'googled' her name, found her Myspace page and discovered photos and debauched stories of underage drinking, one night stands and run ins with the law.

Or, more worryingly, the stories of teenage girls who have met predatory men online.

That's the story that's hitting the front page at the moment, as several families sue Myspace for $30 million, in response to their children being sexually assaulted by men they met via Myspace.

It's a horrible story, repeated four times. One girl, only 14 years old, was raped in New York by two men she met on Myspace. Understandably, parents are horrified.

But the question is: Is Myspace to blame?

Myspace doesn't claim to be a dating website. It certainly doesn't condone or encourage communication between minors and adults. In fact, if you're over 18 years old, you are unable to look at the profiles or personal information of anybody under 18 on the site.

However, most of Myspace's members are teenagers, who use the social networking site to communicate with schoolfriends and make buddies elsewhere across the world. It's obvious that sexual predators would use the facilities offered as a hunting ground for suitable victims.

In the case of all four victims, predators communicated with the teenagers via Myspace, set up 'real world' rendezvous and then pounced. Their parents feel Myspace is responsible and should be made to pay.

But if a fourteen year old sneaked out of the house and hung out at a Diary Barn until midnight, where she met a predator who took her off and abused her, would parents be suing the Diary barn? Obviously not.

Sexual predators are called that for a reason. They use whatever tools they can to manipulate, trick and isolate potential victims. If Myspace hadn't been a factor, maybe it would have been Yahoo or Craigslist. Maybe it would have been the good old fashioned telephone, or a seemingly safe after school club or church meeting.

The meeting between predator and prey could have been facilitated many ways. However, not very many could afford to pay out the $30 million these parents are demanding.

I don't think the parents are being greedy, necessarily. I think they're simply trying to find somebody else to shoulder the responsibility for this tragedy.

The parents of the poor teenagers must be asking: Did we do something wrong? Was this our fault? Should we have monitored their internet usage? Or checked where I daughter was going?

It's a parent's proactive to feel guilty. But the truth is, neither Myspace nor the kid's parents are responsible for what happened. The people who caused all this distress are the sexual predators who manipulated, tricked and trapped their victims.

They're the people who should be held responsible and punished.

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