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New York's Slap to the Facebook 157

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the oh-no-you-didn't dept.
Frequent Slashdot Contributor Bennett Haselton writes "Last month Facebook had to submit to some ritualistic lashing when New York Attorney General Cuomo accused them of misrepresenting the site's safety features and exposing minors to sexual predators -- thus making it official that "Facebook is the new MySpace". Facebook did agree to make some concessions, mainly responding faster to abuse reports. But would this make any difference, when anyone who loses their account can sign up for a new one instantly? More generally, when politicians beat up on social networking sites, what changes do they want to see made, and why do they think those changes would accomplish anything?" Hit that link below to continue to read what Bennett has to say...

There are three questions that any politician attacking social networking sites, should have to answer, in order to be specific about what they want. First, what kind of contact do they think the social networking sites should prohibit between adults and minors? All politicians agree on prohibiting sexual solicitation, but that's a non-issue since that's already against the law. So are they asking the sites to block adults and minors from messaging each other at all? Or only "flirtatious" messages, or only requests to meet in person? Some of these answers are more ridiculous than others, but let them pick one. Second, if the site does try to monitor for inappropriate contact between adults and minors, is there any practical way to stop someone from falsely signing up as a minor? Third, if someone's account is cancelled for inappropriate behavior, what good does that do when they can just create another one? (Cuomo's office declined to respond to these questions, referring me only to their press releases. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.)

Complaining about the futility of Internet regulation is about as hard as complaining about media coverage of Paris Hilton. But in this case, it's not merely that the laws wouldn't do any good, it's that I can't see how the political grandstanding could even plausibly lead up to any laws, even stupid ones.

Facebook's big concession in their settlement with Cuomo was that they would respond faster to complaints sent to abuse@facebook.com about inappropriate contact. (Previously, the AG's office had sent test complaints to the abuse@facebook.com address saying things like, "My 13 YEAR OLD received this extremely inappropriate message from a local NYC man. Please take action IMMEDIATEL!" (sic), and received no response.) But what constitutes "abuse"? Facebook's Terms of Service do not mention contact between adults and minors except to say that you may not "solicit personal information from anyone under 18" (as written, this prohibition would apply to everyone, and not just adults). Does that mean you can send flirtatious messages to an underage user as long as you don't ask for contact information (which you wouldn't need to do anyway, if it's posted on their profile and they add you to their friends list)? For that matter, does that mean if you're 18 and you ask a 17-year-old Facebook user for her phone number, you're breaking the rules? (Or, wait, this applies even if you yourself are 17 as well!) Of course there's nothing new about terms of service agreements which are vaguely written and haphazardly enforced, or playing parlor games about how the terms would be absurd if taken literally. But when a government office is threatening to bring charges and possibly push for new laws unless Facebook agrees to enforce its own Terms of Service, then it's fair game to ask exactly what rules the AG's office is asking Facebook to make people follow.

What if Facebook blocked adults from contacting minors at all? Before, I would have assumed that Facebook would respond to this suggestion by saying that it was too draconian, that nobody had ever seriously tried to outlaw all contact between minors and adults on the Internet, etc. But Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer appeared at one point to endorse this policy as reasonable, by saying that, well, they did block adults from messaging minors on the site, even though they didn't. Cuomo's letter pointed out that any Facebook user can message any other user, and they still can. (I asked Facebook if their Chief Privacy Officer was misquoted in the article, but they didn't respond.) So leaving aside the question of whether Facebook should try to stop adults from messaging minors, would it even be possible? Of course you could block registered adult users from messaging registered underage users. But since any adult who planned on doing something suspicious would probably do it from a "throwaway" account instead of their real one, the question is whether you could screen people from creating "throwaway" accounts pretending to be minors -- sort of the opposite of adult credit-card verification for porn sites. (My suggestion: Make the person answer a question like, 'The way to impress a girl in high school is with (a) looks; (b) intelligence; (c) sense of humor; or (d) "confidence"'. From listening to most adults, you'd think they have no clue about the correct answer to this, except for the ones who also add, 'What do you mean, "in high school"?')

Facebook's current screening system is that anyone who registers as a high school student (and if you're under 18, you have to register as a high school or college student -- homeschoolers and dropouts are out of luck unless they lie about their age), has to be confirmed by an existing student at that school, by sending them a friend request and having them confirm that you are friends. (Your account still works before you're confirmed, but you blocked from certain things that only high school accounts can do, such as browse for other members of that high school.) This is another recent change that Facebook made that was not listed in their settlement agreement -- previously, the Attorney General had documented that anybody under 18 could sign up and join a high school network, but now, you can't do this without getting another student to confirm you.

However, this can be circumvented as well. I'm not endorsing the following trick for any mischief-making, but I think it's sufficiently obvious that there's no reason not to point it out: (1) create a profile of a non-overweight girl and sign up as a member of a high school network, pending confirmation; (2) search for several boys in that network and send them friend requests; and (3) wait for at least one of them to confirm you back, which they will probably do, without even being sure if they actually know you or not. Voila, you've got your "high school student" account. Then you can presumably use that account as a foothold to approve other accounts, for example if you're a male and you want to create a fake high schooler profile as an actual guy, assuming you only want to pretend to be a teenager, not a female, because it's not like you're not some kind of weirdo.

Facebook could conceivably require real-world verification for anyone who signed up as a minor -- confirmation from their school, for example. But this would be competitive suicide for any site whose main draw is that everybody wants to go there because everybody else is already there, so they need signups to be as easy as possible. Even if Congress passed a law draconion enough that it required all social networking sites to do this, Facebook could just re-incorporate overseas (for a billion dollars, wouldn't you move to Canada, Mark?), or else a foreign competitor could take over the teen-social-networking market by offering signups without cumbersome verifications. What would Congress do then, pass a law requiring ISPs to block access to overseas social-networking sites? They couldn't even do that with child pornography.

Finally, if Facebook does cancel your account, you can always sign up for a new one instantly with a new e-mail address. Losing your Facebook account might be a harsh punishment for someone who had built up an extensive network of contacts around their profile. But I'll bet that any adult with a network of friends on Facebook, built around a profile that gives their real name and employer, is probably using a secondary profile with a lot less information on it if they're writing to 13-year-old girls. A dispensable secondary account like that can easily be replaced, so Facebook responding to abuse reports by closing people's accounts is just playing whack-a-mole. An arrest can stop someone permanently, but you can only arrest someone if they've actually broken the law, like sending an unambiguous sexual solicitation to an underage user.

So there's really nothing that Facebook or any other social-networking site could do to prevent adults from signing up as minors, to prevent adults and minors from messaging each other, or to keep abusers from creating new accounts. Occasionally, they are able to make some minor concessions that a politician can take credit for -- in July, the attorney general of Connecticut alerted Facebook to three sex offenders who had profiles on the site, which Facebook duly removed. Did the sex offenders then sign up for new profiles? Are most sex offenders on Facebook smart enough not to sign up under their real names? Story doesn't say. That's one reason I could never make it as a regular reporter, because you're not allowed to insert your own voice into the story even to point out the crashingly obvious.

But basically, the major issues that politicians keep bringing up about social networking sites, are unsolvable. For a politician, of course, this is the best of both worlds -- they can rail against social networking sites forever, knowing that the "problems" will never go away.

This is usually the point at which the writer inserts an obligatory note that the real solution is to sit down and talk to your kids. Well, yes and no. I think first you should be as informed as possible about what the various risks are, not just for online activity but for all of life's experiences, and then sit down and talk. You could even do the research together and make a Family Fun Night out of it! (Sound of teenagers groaning and fumbling for their iPods.) For openers: one study found that in one year in the U.S., "Law enforcement at all levels made an estimated 2,577 arrests for Internet sex crimes against minors", and only 39% of those were for crimes against real, identifible minors (excluding arrests for To Catch A Predator-style sting operations). On the other hand, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that every year, about 3.4 million people are injured and 41,000 are killed in auto accidents in the U.S. Even this rough comparison would seem to suggest that until you've talked to your kid about every last detail you can think of regarding car safety, that's a better use of time than talking about Facebook. Perhaps you think it's an apples-and-oranges comparison because the sex crimes statistic counts only arrests, not actual incidents. But then the question is whether a true apples-to-apples comparison has ever been done, or how you could do one. The point is that there is some objective truth about the relative risks, and if you read even just one study comparing them, you're better informed than 90% of the people out there, including most parents. You want to be the cool Mom? You don't have to let your kids do everything, just have reasons for stuff!

My promise to my own future kids is that I won't ever make the mistake of thinking that just because I paid for their room and board for a few years, that makes me better informed about the various risks factors of different activities. I will probably be better informed than my kids, for a long while anyway, but that won't be why. And I hope we can teach them so much that before long they'll be better informed than most people, including most of their friends' parents. Then my wife will teach them to be polite enough not to point this out to their friends' parents, but with half their genes coming from me I wouldn't bet on it.

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New York's Slap to the Facebook

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  • WOW (Score:4, Funny)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:04PM (#21324897) Journal
    I didn't realize that you could have an article that long on /.
    Aside from that, what's with all the common sense about teaching children about the dangers of the Internet before allowing them to use it? That is just politically incorrect, the author can't possibly be an American! Does Homeland Security know this guy is trying to take their job from them? Absolutely criminal!
    • by StressGuy (472374) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:38PM (#21325321)
      The problem is, even if you are a responsible parent, the availability and accessibility of this media is growing at an exponential rate. I've got a couple of kids myself and am doing what I can. We teach our children about strangers - which includes the internet, and, on the computer my children use, I run DansGuardian giving me the ability to just block anything that's a problem.

      Thing is, I take every reasonable step I can to protect my children from predators. If these, "social networking" sites aren't willing to show the same level of commitment to this that I have, then my only alternative is to block access to those sites.

      but that only works at home....doesn't it? What about everywhere else they go?

      So, speaking as a responsible parent, it would be nice if these "social networking" sites were also "socially responsible".

      BTW - I have a MySpace page....and their spamblocking tools seem to be working.
      • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:59PM (#21325585) Journal
        that is exactly the point...censorship does not work. If you don't teach your kids to be responsible no matter of the amount of danger, they will never be safe. You see, children (gasp) are really just adults that don't know enough to be called adults yet. If people over the magic age of 18 can kill and die, as well as determine what is appropriate for them to view on the Internet, I'm betting there are a large percentage of them that can do it at a much younger age if they are well informed and taught about the dangers. Wow, when you think about it, there are a very large number of people that are older than 18 who fall prey to the dangers of the Internet. Why are we so afraid?

        Do you personally know of all the sex offenders in your local area? If not, why are you worried about the dangers of the Internet? And ooops, but most sexual abuse seems to be perpetrated by someone the victim knows rather than a stranger from the Internet. http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?AuthorID=70342&id=34001 [authorsden.com] How does the dangers of the Internet affect those statistics??????? Please please please will someone explain that to us. Are you certain the priest you see each week is not overly friendly? How about your wife's uncle bill?

        If you are worried about the kids learning about sex, I can tell you straight up, better you tell them and guide them than they learn it from little johnny whose idea of sex is abusing girls... in a kid kind of way.

        The real dangers are close enough for you to touch, NOT on the Internet.
        • by Gription (1006467) on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:25PM (#21325883)
          The Internet is a whole world full of all of the good and bad that exists in the real world (and then some). Do you let your kids wander about unsupervised through the real world? Everyone would think you were insane if you did that.

          Then why do so many people let their kids wonder through the Internet unsupervised? It is just stupid. The simple solution is "No computers with an Internet connection in their rooms!" The computer should be out in a visible exposed public place where they can't sneak around because they can never tell when someone might peek around the corner.

          Problem solved...
          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:36PM (#21326867) Homepage Journal
            "Then why do so many people let their kids wonder through the Internet unsupervised? It is just stupid. The simple solution is "No computers with an Internet connection in their rooms!"

            How about somehow raising kids so that they aren't stupid as rocks?!?!?

            I mean, c'mon...what happened to kids? When I was raised, of course, no internet, but, there were physical tricks I was warned against. No talking to strangers...don't get in a strange car, stay around with friends when out, etc. And I was smart enough as a kid to not do stupid things. What happened to that? After I was in like 3rd grade, my Mom went back to work. I could easily walk home 'alone' from school, and not get into trouble. I knew where the handgun in the house was, and could use it...but, I had the fear of God put into me not to even think of touching it unless I was home alone and threatened by someone possibly breaking in, etc...(which almost did happen once, but, another story).

            But, really...when did kids become so stupid, as to run to meet someone in another state just due to a chatroom meeting? I dunno what the deal is? Are there more pervs. out there enticing children? I guess it is possible, but, I kinda doubt it...it is just more publicized more. Those 24/7 news networks have to pump something out on slow news days.

            I dunno, I could have easily had my own private internet connection as a kid in my room, and it would have posed no danger to me. I'd probably have been looking at nekkid chicks sure, but, that's nothing more than the skin magazines we all had back then...

            So, what is the deal? Are parents raising street stupid kids? Too sheltered perhaps, and they don't know what to do when confronted with possible danger? What?

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              So, what is the deal? Are parents raising street stupid kids? Too sheltered perhaps, and they don't know what to do when confronted with possible danger?

              Yes.

              Gen-X is the generation at fault here. They were a wonderful generation right up to the point where they began breeding. Exceptions abound, I know. I have good Gen-X friends who are great parents, and I know some Gen-X folks who are terrible.

              A few years ago I did some personal research on this "phenomenon". Based on what I can gather, it happened around the late 70s and during the 80s. They had a great time, a great life. Other than the 1979 oil crisis, the Vietnam situation, Korean conflict, and

              • Sorry, I'm roughly a generation ahead of you and you're just repeating history here. Lot's of pre-gen-x parents aren't fit to supervise a fruit fly, much less human children. Thus is the way it was and will always be.

                There are certainly new issues and problems with every generation - we didn't have the Internet: just drugs, sex and motorcycles. That was enough to send my folks into screaming purple hissy fits. But your thesis that Gen-X parents are in someways fundamentally different from previous (

              • Other than the 1979 oil crisis, the Vietnam situation, Korean conflict, and the Gulf battles, that generation never really knew what it was like to live life "tough". Sure, the US had a major economic recession, the 1987 market crash was rough...

                LOL!

                Another fact is they were also the generation that largely grew up in split families

                I don't remember anybody who grew up in a split family, perhaps you can give some comparative statistics with authoritative references. Sorry, Fox News does not count.

                With me it was a very Wayne's World type of experience (especially growing up in Scarberia, where Mike Myers is from). Though the Korean war was tough on us, most of us survived without being taken prisoner. But Vietnam was easier on us because of the easy access to opium in South East Asia.

                They were also the generation behind the creation of today's technology

                Like instant Cappuccino, distributed spam serv

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Do you let your kids wander about unsupervised through the real world? Everyone would think you were insane if you did that.

            Perhaps you should move somewhere else. I see kids all the time walking around unsupervised and I live in a major Canadian city. And yes I walked around unsupervised when I was a kid. My mom even told me that my kindergarten teacher told her NOT to walk me to school because it is unhealthy for my development. And NO I never got raped, murdered or kidnapped. If things are really that bad where you live (the US I presume), then you should move into the most isolated area you can think of, and let your childr

          • Not really missed. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tinkerghost (944862) on Monday November 12, 2007 @03:49PM (#21327037) Homepage

            Check the stats - 98%+ of abuse cases are real world cases - not related to the internet. How many times have you heard a politician screaming about needing more funds for handling real world cases? The bill last year wanted to make data retention mandatory (to the tune of $400M+ annually) with some governmental financial support. However they vetoed the FBI request for a budget increase for the MEC department.

            Even if the government could manage to exterminate every case of child abuse related to the internet, it wouldn't make a noticeable change in the amount of abuse going on. However, because it's a wild frontier that politicians can get publicity on, they scream about it like it's the end of the world. The internet is no different than the real world in terms of how to protect yourself. If parents take the time to teach their kids how to stay safe in the real world, then Internet safety is a footnote.

            Committing hundreds of thousands of wasted dollars to 'make the internet safe' without also committing a proportionately larger amount of cash to the real world problem is almost criminal. It shows that the soundbytes are all people are interested in. Actual results are completely secondary to the volume of airtime and feelgood support politicians can generate by spouting off this crap.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lgw (121541)
            I certainly wandered through the world unsupervised when I was a kid. Typical latchkey kid - single working mother got home long after I did. While I was certainly stupid enough to injure myself in creative ways ("hey, yall, watch this!"), there was no dnger that I would take candy from strangers, or start smoking. Kids will follow simple rules when the dangers are obvious and well explained (my parents both smoked, so the danger there was self-explanitory).

            Trying to eyeball them 24/7 is just a mistake,
          • by Hatta (162192)
            That sounds like a good way to teach them to rely on ever present authority to protect them. Really now, what's the worst thing that could happen to a kid on the internet? They might read some naughty words, or see some naughty pictures. Big fucking deal. Teach them the dangers of meeting someone IRL, tell them why they should keep their personal data secret. Let them figure the rest out themselves. As long as you keep an eye on them IRL, there's really nothing that can go that wrong giving a kid inte
        • by cHiphead (17854)
          There comes a point at which any educated, internet geek parent realizes that 'hardcore scat porn' is not something you really want to have any influencing factors on your kid at any time in his or her life.

          Cheers.
          • by zappepcs (820751)
            Oh yes, there is age appropriate learning, but let me tell you, kids have not stopped being kids and as I remember it, you only have to be ignorant of one subject and they let you know how fscking stupid they think you are to prop up their own egos. Yes, for GOD's sake, hide information from your children at all costs, spare no effort. Half the ignorant people of the US believe that the Muslims of the world hate their freedom, and that they are heathen devils... when in fact, The Jews, Muslims, and Christi
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        That is true. Like they say, it takes a village. If the parents are the only ones taking any responsibility then it makes the parents' jobs much more difficult. What happens when the child is at school, or at the local library, or at an internet cafe, or anywhere else? It becomes extremely difficult to do your job when everyone else is working against you, whether that job is raising a child, or doing any other task.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        The thing is, the availability of the media may be growing, but the number of predators is not growing exponentially. Statistically speaking, the majority of sexual crimes (including crimes against minors) are committed by people who know their victims, and in the case of crimes against children, usually involve people who have some sort of supervisory relationship with the child (e.g. a teacher, parent, guardian, etc.). This is true even when you consider internet crime, and the amount of internet crime

      • but that only works at home....doesn't it? What about everywhere else they go?

        When they're out of your house you have to trust whoever is in a supervisory position wherever they are - be it the bus driver, a teacher, librarian, or their friend's parent.

        When your kid is at home you personally make sure they don't talk to strangers, don't see pornography, don't get stabbed, don't get kidnapped. When your kid goes to school, or over to their friend's house, you can't do that. It's up to their teachers to mak

      • by ultracool (883965)
        The thing is, on Facebook, the potential to get abuse from someone is entirely under your control. Just follow some basic common-sense rules:

        1. Don't friend people who you don't know.
        2. Set your privacy settings so that only your friends can view your personal information (this is default, I believe)
        3. If you have your doubts about someone but still want to friend them, choose the "view limited profile" option.

        In other words, don't be a moron. Facebook has fully customizable privacy settings. You can allow

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        Thing is, I take every reasonable step I can to protect my children from predators. If these, "social networking" sites aren't willing to show the same level of commitment to this that I have, then my only alternative is to block access to those sites.

        The chances of your child falling victim to a "predator" they met on Facebook (or MySpace, or anywhere else) is so small as to be basically irrelevant compared to the chances of them falling victim to a "predator" they met through you, their parent.

        but tha

    • teaching children about the dangers of the Internet

      The Internet is not a dangerous place. If it was then I wouldn't be here.
      What is dangerous is fear and ignorance.

      But I suspect this whole controversy has to do more with the fact that a powerful "moral majority" of American's just don't want teens to have sex, whether it be with people older than them or not. Demonize and criminalize the older part of the equation, and one has a great rallying point for society. Helps people feel like they have a common goal and belief system. If people can't agree on the

  • Yeah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by paranode (671698) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:07PM (#21324943)
    They just want to be able to tell their moron constituents that they are "tough on child predators". Meanwhile they'd get more accomplished working with Dateline than spending years going after these social networking sites to get meaningless changes in place.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RiffRafff (234408)
      Meanwhile they'd get more accomplished working with Dateline...

      How so? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Catch_a_Predator#Charges_Dropped [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by paranode (671698)
        Charges were dropped in some cases in one county, and this contradicts what I'm saying... how?

        They still have netted more convictions than going after Facebook will.
        • Charges were dropped in some cases in one county, and this contradicts what I'm saying... how?

          Because those dropped charges - more importantly, why they were dropped - will influence any future legitimate arrests with their tainted stink.

          Dateline spend $100K last year on their 'Predator' series just paying for 'Perverted Justice' to sit on the web. That's almost 1% of the national budget for the FBI's Missing & Exploited Children - which covers all forms of child molestations. The data they quote at t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Ender (156273)
      More generally,

      when politicians beat up on [anything remotely related to children], what changes do they want to see made[?]

      The change they want to see made is: get more votes by manipulating the irrational paternal instincts of their constituents.

      Both parties do it. The Republicans have made it a cornerstone of their faux "family values" campaign. The Democrats (both Clinton campaigns) want to expand censorship of television and video games. Neither party has any evidence that gay rights or games causes de

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      I'm still trying to figure out Dateline isn't violating the law. If they are deputized, then I would think that there would be serious problems with entrapment. If they are not deputized, then they are offering sex with minors to adults. As I understand it, that would be illegal, just the same as selling oregano to an undercover cop, or offering prostitution services, even if you have no intent of going through with it.
      • by JoshJ (1009085)
        It's my understanding that dateline uses 18-year olds that appear younger. It's still really shady, because in that case the person wouldn't even be breaking a law if he went through with it.
      • by paranode (671698)
        What happened initially when that show aired is they let the people go on their merry way. Obviously this pissed a lot of people off because here you have people intending to have sex with children and they just walk away to do it another day. Then states passed laws that allowed this type of situation to be prosecuted. Perverted Justice people posing as children are not actually children, and the people that are busted get charged with crimes that have to do with intent to have sex with a minor or somet
      • Please tell me on what charge you can be brought for selling oregano to anyone, let alone a cop. If there is one it's a great way to get back at my local grocer. Thanks.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          In many (Most?) states, selling a substance AS a drug is still illegal, even if the drug is fake. Selling oregano is not illegal, selling fake marijuana is. Selling dish soap is not illegal. Selling fake cocaine is.
      • by Myopic (18616)
        My understanding is that Dateline has criminal lawyers advising them on how NOT to "offer sex with minors". Just like a police officer, they set up the situation without making the *offer*, and it's the offer that makes it entrapment.

        Compare this to a drug bust: if you go up to a crack dealer and ask for a rock and he sells it to you, then arrests you because he's undercover, then that's not entrapment. But if you're sitting on the sidewalk looking kinda cracked out, and he walks up to you and offers you a
  • Sorry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:10PM (#21324987)
    Goodwill gestures to minimize risk to teens and kids are a good idea but since when is an online business responsible for other peoples children? This is really quite simple; responsibility lies with parents and legal guardians!
    • by wattrlz (1162603)
      Just because it's not your job is no reason not to look out for the interests of your customers.
      • Re:Sorry? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kelnos (564113) <bjt23@coCHEETAHrnell.edu minus cat> on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:14PM (#21325729) Homepage
        Facebook already looks out for the interests of their customers -- their advertisers. Facebook users are not Facebook customers. Facebook users are the product that they sell to advertisers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by R2.0 (532027)
      "since when is an online business responsible for other peoples children? "

      Since Cuomo got elected Governor of NY and realized that the stunts he pulled as AG weren't going to cut it anymore. He has to come up with SOME way to stay in the headlines, does he not?
    • Businesses are responsible for children during election cycles, when politicians are bored, and when they have money which can be paid in "remedies"

      It has been the mantra of the 90s and beyond (probably earlier) that GOVERNMENT is the solution to all woes, whether real or imaginary. How many stories do we read about how new laws, programs, and taxes, are created "for the children"? How similar programs are made because its not your fault, you should not have to take all that responsibility?

      The real proble
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:11PM (#21325003) Journal

    This is just another "think of the children" moment and will continue to inflame the debate over social networking services. There will be the chorus of "if you don't like it, don't use it" followed by "about time someone makes them clean up their act", concluded with "someone has to be held accountable".

    Look people, as long as Facebook, MySpace, et. al. do not go to extraordinary lengths to screen applicants (e.g. send in a physical application form along with corroborating evidence, doing background checks), then anyone using those services takes their chances, not unlike soliciting a prostitute or buying merchandise off of eBay. If parents are so worried about their minor children using these services and falling under the thrall of malevolent lotahrios, then they need to monitor (or outright block) their children's network access and hold accountable others who might provide those services to their children.

    This is like the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike to hold back the flood, while a 30-foot crack in the dam starts spraying water. It looks good on paper but any hardcore perv will find ways around things and keep right on doing what they do until they get arrested.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:22PM (#21325155)
      Thinking of the children too much, especially keeping children away from adults and vice versa, leads to things like Kid Nation and Lord of the Flies.
      • Thinking of the children too much, especially keeping children away from adults and vice versa, leads to things like Kid Nation and Lord of the Flies.

        OK, it's not good to be overprotective, but these examples don't make sense. Kid Nation is a completely artificial construct that I don't think has been done anywhere else, and IIRC, Lord of the Flies is total fiction, not even a wild exaggeration of on a true story.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Lord of the Flies is total fiction, not even a wild exaggeration of on a true story.

          Lord of the flies was based on a number of different experiences the author had. The author was a teacher, and he didn't much like the way kids where idealized in books. The characterizations in the novel and the way they interacted with each other where based on his experience of being a kindergarten teacher. Children he found where not just Cherubic innocents.

          The novel was also based on the historical episode of how a country isolated itself from the rest of the world and treated it's people (i.e. Nazi G

      • by jadin (65295)

        Thinking of the children too much, especially keeping children away from adults and vice versa, leads to things like Kid Nation and Lord of the Flies.
        So me being a better parent will prevent reality TV shows?
    • "This is like the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike..."

      Apparently we need to protect children from European soft-core porn too.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Look people, as long as Facebook, MySpace, et. al. do not go to extraordinary lengths to screen applicants

      The problem is when government gets involved with internet sites, the government forgot that companies have the option to move overseas. There is no need for a brick and mortar locations to be in one nation or another. The reason Myspace and Facebook reside in the US now was because their creators lived in the US and found it convenient to create and maintain said sites in the US.

      However, if laws made i
    • This is just another "think of the children" moment and will continue to inflame the debate over social networking services. There will be the chorus of "if you don't like it, don't use it" followed by "about time someone makes them clean up their act", concluded with "someone has to be held accountable".

      Yep. Also, remember that many of the parents bitching are the same ones that will think nothing of dropping off their kids at the mall and leave them for 8 hours. This is another one of those 'fear of t

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:13PM (#21325035) Homepage
    I mean, when I was 10 and got started on IRC (yes, I was a weaksauce 10-14 year old that spent his non-gaming time in chat rooms), I still knew that people online only knew as much as what I told them...my parents didn't even need to tell me that first name, state (not even county, just state), and sex were the only things that were ok to tell anyone...people that I got to know a bit, I could tell them my age, but again...all they had to go on was my first name and what state I lived in, so even if they were a sexual predator or whatever they couldn't exactly come knocking on my front door.

    So whose fault is it, would you say? Parents, for not teaching their children these basic things about the Internet (i.e. they only know as much as you tell them) or is it the kid's fault for being a complete moron?
    • by techpawn (969834)
      A/S/L?

      Seriously though, even THAT is too much sometimes. We travel the net under pseudonyms for a reason. Maybe it's because we think that's the name that identifies us better than "Robert Smith of Salt Lake City" or maybe it's because we want a little ambiguity to our actions online. When you're at a party and give your name and number to a girl, you give it to THAT girl and no one else (one can assume). A chat room or social web site is different, you yell it out to the whole room, but in this case the
    • by wattrlz (1162603)
      It's the kid's fault for being dumb and the parents for not being much better, Since you can't blame people for being dumb in this country (I think it's in the US constitution somewhere) we have to accomodate them somehow. That's where the problem arises.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "It's the kid's fault for being dumb and the parents for not being much better, Since you can't blame people for being dumb in this country (I think it's in the US constitution somewhere) we have to accomodate them somehow. That's where the problem arises."

        Well, and sometimes, you need a little chlorine in the gene pool.

    • ...is the person who is convinced that he's too smart to be fooled

      that is all
    • by Kamots (321174)
      Just on a side note, a first name can be too much to give out.

      For instance years back I wound up urgently needing to get ahold of an online friend. I only knew his first name (a common one... Bryan), but I also knew the IP addresses that he'd used over the past couple months (we were both semi-admins on the same site). Me and another online friend spent a couple hours, did a bit of social engineering (none of the illegal kind), and obtained his full name, address, and phone number.

      It doesn't take much to
  • there will always be the spectre of the lurking pedophile? Is this what they are trying to get at?
  • Study shows that bad things happen when parents neglect monitoring their (young) children's internet activities.

    From what I can discern, Facebook offers users the ability of removing one's own account from all searching. You may opt to only be contacted by your friends. To everyone else, you shouldn't even exist. Therefore, if you do NOT want that "local NYC" man contacting you then do NOT make him your friend (despite the fact that he may have poked you a couple dozen times).

    I would not consider it necessa
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:20PM (#21325125)
    In most of these cases the politicians have no clear idea of the problem, nor any solutions (whether practical or not).

    Generally they are responding to a perceived level of concern from members of the public. This may come to them directly (unlikely) or through focus-groups/media reports or just hearsay from their staff.

    This means they feel they should do something, just to show they're on the case and to stop any possibility that their opponents can make political capital out of it. As a consequence they have no real idea of what can be done - or even have any first-hand experience of the websites they're attacking.

    The best things the site owners can do is to nod gravely, agree that there are bad people about. State that they have state-of-the-art protections in place and that they spend $Xmillion per year "protecting" people.

    Until there is a reliable way of identifying the baddies just by what they type, they'll always be open to this type of criticism and can not otherwise address it.

    Stay safe, act sensibly, watch your kids -they're your responsibility

  • This will be modded down to -344 troll..

    BUT

    Why can't we simply monitor sexual predators better? This may sound silly, but it is an extremly well documented fact that sexual predators TYPICALLY(not always) will continue to prey after release from jail, after chemical castration, almost after anything. It is in there mind set to do this.. why not simply monitor there internet better? Require there internet traffic to block facebook/myspace. Require them to submit to use of internet blocking tech.

    I

    • by rhizome (115711)
      This may sound silly, but it is an extremly well documented fact that sexual predators TYPICALLY(not always) will continue to prey after release from jail, after chemical castration, almost after anything.

      I question how well-documented this is, do you have a citation for this?
    • but it is an extremly well documented fact

      I would like a citation on that "extremly(sic) well documented fact" of yours please. If I recall correctly, sex offenders have the second lowest recidivism rate of convicted offenders in the US; murderers being the lowest. That includes people who assaulted adults, not just minors, so the actual statistic on that is quite likely lower. BJS Recidivism Study [pdf] [state.pa.us]

      • sex offenders have the second lowest recidivism rate of convicted offenders in the US; murderers being the lowest.
        Perhaps that's due to the fact that they often die in the slammer, either as a result of natural causes during a very long sentence or sitting in the plug-in armchair?
    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      This is NOT true at all.

      It is however a popular misconception.

      The acutal statistics show that 80% of people arrested for child molestation are NEVER arrested for child molestation again. Only about 20% are repeat sexual molesters. Another 22% or or so were arrested for violent crime but not child molestation (for some reason or other, after spending years in jail, with a child molestation credit on your rap sheet, you are more likely to get into fights...)

      The reason why people think most offenders can

      • for some reason or other, after spending years in jail, with a child molestation credit on your rap sheet, you are more likely to get into fights...
        A shame, and completely avoidable; all you had to do was to not fuck a baby in the first place.
  • by richardtallent (309050) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:24PM (#21325175) Homepage
    The solution to social networks and spam is the same: *trust networks*.

    Not identity, TRUST.

    As in, you can't send me an email unless someone *I* know vouches for you. Or someone they know, etc., with degrees of separation up to my level of comfort.

    I don't need to know you personally (or even know your real name) to trust you as someone who won't spam me, and I can probably trust your trusted contacts as well. With 3-4 degrees of separation, the people allowed to contact me via IM, email, telephone, etc. would likely include almost EVERYONE who would legitimately need to contact me, while including no spammers.

    Sure, social engineering is always possible with such a system, but if my buddy Joe (or his buddy Frank) is an idiot and has a habit of trusting spammers, I should simply be able to mark him as "untrustworthy."

    Now, how does this apply to the TERRORIST-PREDATOR-HACKER problem?

    First off, predators are experts at social engineering, and even full government vetting would only prevent *registered* predators from obtaining accounts, not the ones who've never been caught. We can't even get the terrorist no-fly database right, so I have ZERO confidence that social networks could ever be predator-free.

    So, for your children's accounts, use the trust system to your advantage by only marking yourself and other trusted adults/groups as contacts that can either contact your kid directly or that can be used as trust verification contacts. Doesn't solve the uncle/teacher/priest problem, but should be a perfectly reasonable way to keep your kids from being contacted by people you don't know.
    • As in, you can't send me an email unless someone *I* know vouches for you. Or someone they know, etc., with degrees of separation up to my level of comfort.
      How would turning e-mail into a darknet (like Freenet or the Nintendo friend code system) be useful for people whose job involves handling sales or support requests from the general public?
      • by cdrguru (88047)
        Commercial use of email? What are you thinking? That is how the whole problem got started in the first place - letting commercial money-grubbing interests onto the Internet.

        Why would any business need to send an email? When most right-thinking people just block it anyway?
    • by giafly (926567)

      The solution to social networks and spam is the same: *trust networks* ... With 3-4 degrees of separation, the people allowed to contact me via IM, email, telephone, etc. would likely include almost EVERYONE who would legitimately need to contact me, while including no spammers.

      I legitimately need to contact you to say you're wrong.

      1. There are many "good citizen" reasons to contact people
      2. how do you get through life while refusing to talk to people you don't trust, like - say - government officials, or yo
  • While it's true you're far more likely to run into trouble riding in a car than posting on facebook, the point of talking to your kids about the risks "out there" is to educate them about being safe and smart in situations where their judgment plays a big part in the risk. ie: it's not a waste of time to teach your kids to make a difference where they actually CAN. That's why driver's ed courses don't spend much time on "here's what you do if you're driving along and a meteorite crashes on you."

    It's stupi
    • the point of talking to your kids about the risks "out there" is to educate them about being safe and smart in situations where their judgment plays a big part in the risk. ie: it's not a waste of time to teach your kids to make a difference where they actually CAN.

      I think the poster did get exactly your point about risk assesment - don't waste your time with things that aren't likely to happen & focus on the ones that are: IE. 97% of sexual propositions to minors occur in the real world. Less than 3%

  • Remember When... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tecker (793737) on Monday November 12, 2007 @01:30PM (#21325233) Homepage
    Facebook was primarily developed for College students.

    It was a college rite of passage. Hey you got a [name]@[college].edu address? You can get on facebook! It allowed us to organize, link, and share information on the latest changes on our friends and where the next House-Party-To-Be-Busted would be. It was like an invasion of privacy and our "Check out me doing beer pong AND IM 19" pictures when employers began snooping around. Myspace for the masses. Facebook for the collegiate elite.

    Then they opened it up. HIGH SCHOOLERS! Aw crap. Well there goes the site. But the new freshmen had fun. They could link and get in to their old circles in HS. Life settled in to the "new" site.

    Then they opened it to specific "work" networks. Again the college students complained but hey now the alumni could say connected. So we let it go.

    Then the worst thing of all. EVERYONE! Are you breathing? You can have a facebook account. And thus the "cool" site became the new predator site. LOCK IT DOWN! Those days of "hey i haven't seen them in over a year since that one class" disappeared. Now you have to be friends to see other profile. Believe me, we now have speakers come in and tell us that employers are trolling and so are the colleges. Facebook died a slow death. Sure we still use it and my campus (KSU) has an average daily use of 2 hours per student (someone has got to be throwing that number) but its not the same. It really is the new stalker net.

    BTW. WHY are parents letting their 13 year olds on a site like this?
    • by barzok (26681)
      They aren't "letting" their 13 year olds on the site.

      It's that they aren't STOPPING them from getting on the site.

      You know, that whole "active participation in the kid's life" and "proper adult supervision" thing that so many kids lack.
    • >>> BTW. WHY are parents letting their 13 year olds on a site like this?

      You make it sound like it's a hardcore porn site.

      I think letting a child use a social networking site like facebook is akin to letting them ride on a bus by themselves - bear with me: Someone can say something inappropriate to your kid on a bus, show them dirty pictures, whisper in their ear, ... whatever; buses aren't made to promote this sort of thing; it's just a consequence of malevolence in society; buses are comparatively
  • ... that most children's lives would be ruined if they are allowed unsupervised, not talked about with parents, interactions with outside world and Internet in particular? Go ahead and send your 13 year old daughter in the bar with your ID and then blame the owner if she spends the night with a patron. Now read your whole spam folder and imagine what will happen to someone who lacks critical thinking and believes in claims in every message. Are you going to go after gmail, Facebook or whatever neutral servi
  • I always thought of Facebook as the more higher class social network full of more mature people rather then the dross of 13 year old cam whores that infect Myspace.

    Am I wrong in my assertions or is it that Facebook is just going down the tubes? I don't really use it that much so I don't know.
    • Granted I'm a "Johnny Come Lately" to that whole thing, but I'm really not seening the "dross of 13 year olds". I see a lot of people closer to my age.

      Maybe MySpace was like that once, but I think the grown-ups are starting to discover that it's good for things like "networking" and keeping up with friends that have dispersed all over the place.

  • There are three questions that any politician attacking social networking sites, should have to answer, in order to be specific about what they want.

    It might be a good idea, to let somebody, else proofread your essay before publishing, it on a site with thousands, of readers.
    • It might be a good idea, to let somebody, else proofread your essay before publishing, it on a site with thousands^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmillions, of readers^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hgrammar nazis.
      Fixed.
  • I think parents are responsible for their kids protection, I mean, nowadays some parents expect TV and Internet to raise their children for them, and then they complain about the dangers of such things.
    I mean, it's true, internet is full of dangers to kids, but those dangers can be eliminated with some adequate parenting, after all, it's easier than making the whole internet safe for children, isn't it?
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday November 12, 2007 @02:09PM (#21325677) Journal

    Slashdots population is male, the number of females can be counted on the fingers of a clumsy lumberjack. As such it is hard for us to understand just how often females are the subject of sexual advances. I as a male can open a facebook page and never ever get an invititation for anything. A female only has to give the barest hint that she is female and BAM, she is hit upon.

    Most recent example was in a MMORPG raid, I let it slip that our raid leader has a sexy voice, she does, as a motivation to get people to use voice chat. Oh boy. MISTAKE!

    That was followed by a rather lengthy lecture by her and another friend on the realities of being a female in this world. I am old enough to know about cramps and lots of other stuff I think should be on a need to know basis (hint, I don't need to know) but they shocked me by just how constant and unrelenting it is. We all know about the teacher who offers better grade for eheh, homework. But as males we think that is something funny, but also rare. They both claimed that it was not, that on a night out it was not uncommon for them to be approached for sex for money. That if it becomes known in a game they are females they ALWAYS get hit upon. Sometimes perfectly nice, sometimes a bit too much and at times pure abuse but most important ALWAYS.

    But there are slashdot females here, and they can no doubt better describe it, my point is that we as males cannot really judge just how much of a problem this is. Because what was also clear is that it is not the majority of men who harass, unless you yourselve are one of the people who prey on teens you just can't understand how constant the treath is.

    Young girls are also vulnerable, not all, but some are in desperate need for anyone to give them attention and the predators out there are casting a wide enough net they will find some poor girl (or even boy) who is receptive. Again this is not something men can understand. If you as a teenage boy had a older female who wished to initiate you in the pleasures of love, you would have thanked god on your bair knees. You would have been a stud. When a few years ago that story broke about the highschooler and female teacher, who among us didn't think, "wish I had a teacher like that".

    With social networking sites we have created spot where vulnerable people can expose themselves in an extremely direct manner to those who wish to take advantage of them, in total privacy.

    Chat up a teen at my sportclub and you will get yourselve thoroughly beaten up. Do it online, and who is to know.

    What I want to make clear is that it is NOT something we as males can accurately judge, if you really want to know, try finding a female in your circle of friends who has an account on such a site and ask to read the responses she gets. I read the logs she had of an old WoW session. I wouldn't say I was shocked but if you get pissed of at goldspammers, you ain't see nothing yet. She and I think other girls are there in game to play a game, not to get hit up on. It wasn't even the abuse or hatred that was shocking, but just how constant it was.

    Women don't mind if you look at their tits, they take pride in them, they want to be sexy. What women object to is that men ONLY ever look at their tits. ALL men ALL the time.

    Social networking sites remove even the most basic controls of civilized society, you can see this in the catch-a-predator series, perfectly normal men (hetero males are attracted to young females, it is nature, if you are not, you are gay) who know they shouldn't be doing this can't seem to resist. On the other hand we got young kids (not just girls are preyed upon) some of them vulnerable, all without any supervision of any sort. Problems are bound to occur.

    Are they worse then what happened in earlier days? I remember a faint story from my childhood about a gym instructor who was let go. We got warnings about strange men hanging around the school, so it is nothing new. BUT I was also male. Those warnings didn't really apply to me, bu

    • I know what you mean! I'm a dude, but I remember when I was an anti-social teenager hopelessly lost in the ways of women. I always got the same piece of advice...basically, it's OK to hit on chicks, if they don't like it, find another; be a bit of a bastard, they'll like you for it, etc., but acting like a jerk just to 'impress' women with a false sense of confidence never seemed to sit right with me. But, I was tired of being alone, so I started approaching women more and more, but aimed to be friendly,

  • ...another storm in a teacup Facebook story. It must be Monday.
  • If you think these guys are trying to protect children or whatever, you're missing the point. The point of attacking Facebook and other such sites is to be seen on TV and the newspaper appearing to be concerned about "the children". This is because there are people that will vote for them based on this. Even if a politician is smart enough to know they're not accomplishing anything, they'll still do this because they want the appearance of "doing something." They're indifferent as to whether or not any
  • by Phroggy (441)

    You want to be the cool Mom? You don't have to let your kids do everything, just have reasons for stuff!

    Holy crap, that's the best piece of parenting advice I've heard in a long time.

    The goal of parenting is, by the time the kids are 18, they're prepared to make responsible decisions in the real world without relying on Mom & Dad. That means not just teaching them to do things or not to do things, but teaching them how to decide for themselves whether to do things or not to do things, so that when they're in a new situation, they can figure out how to handle it.

    One great thing about giving your kids rea

  • Everything you put in seems open to the world, this is fine if its "what i did today" it's expected really. But when you register with your email, you _do_not_ expect that to be published, which it is(!) even if it is represented as an image. I find this quite frankly amazing.
  • The only protection that the young have against sexual predators is themselves. This is true on the street and on the internet. Kids and teenagers who don't know which way is up, who are not aware of the existence of sick and evil individuals who want to basically rape them (if they are lucky), are at risk of being victimized by said individuals. It doesn't matter if they're wandering down the street or wandering into a chat room.

    In todays world there are no children. There are only the aware and inform
  • One of the things Bennett has always failed to understand is that just making something inconvenient will oftentimes prevent people from doing it. Yes, there is a way to get on a high school network after the "must be confirmed by an existing student" change, if you really really want to get on that network. But there are plenty of perverts who will either just give up or go find a way to get off that has a lower opportunity cost.
  • "That's one reason I could never make it as a regular reporter, because you're not allowed to insert your own voice into the story even to point out the crashingly obvious."

    That's only a recent phenomenon. The truth is, reporters have a long history of finding facts, then drawing conclusions based on those facts - even in regular stories, not just editorials. Ever since the Regan years though, journalism has been under attack, and accused of being biased (which of course was true - bias toward the truth, as
  • You forget why politicians do these things. They know darn well what they say is impractical and couldn't work but they want to be seen as "doing something". Also if you say something about a well known group, company or web site then you can get some free news coverage and your name and face all over the web and TV.
  • Must be election time again. A bunch of wortheless ' feel good ' posturing. " i care about the kiddies "

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