Sex Offenders & Social Networking Wake Up Call

Well after the recent news about 90,000 sexual predators being removed from MySpace (before the Task Force issued their Report, MySpace only admitted to removing 25,000) and the most recent sexual predator sex ring bust on Facebook that involved 31 students and an 18 year old man, I can’t help but reiterate our position that the Final Report’s conclusions were misleading. Again, here are two reasons why:

1.  The scale of SNs were not taken into account. In fact, the article about the sexual predator on Facebook points this out in context to the percentage of impersonation schemes:

(In a somewhat bizarre twist, Facebook responded to news of the sex ring by stating that fewer than 1% of its 150 million users are affected by impersonation schemes. So, around 1.5 million people. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring statistic.)

2.  The Final Report downplayed the issue of “sexual predators” by focusing on the fact that the stereotypical image of an adult predator was a middle aged man. In fact, as we pointed out in IDology’s member statement to the Internet Safety’s Task Force Final Report:

the research indicates that 54% to 57% (more than a majority) of sexual solicitors are either over the age of 18 or their age could not be determined.

Interestingly is Facebook’s update to its Terms of Service:

…. rewording many of its rules to make them easier to understand and explicitly prohibiting some common transgressions, like including false information in profiles or creating fake accounts. But there was one far more timely addition: “If you are required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction, you may not use the Facebook Service.”

Certainly this is a step in the right direction but the only way to know if an adult is creating a fake account is to ID and age verify them. Given Facebook’s real-life focused mentality (meaning most people create accounts on Facebook to connect and keep in touch with their friends and family), it’s a great Social Network to test ID verification and age verification. And I hope all Social Networks will strongly consider the applications for such a technology and quickly put it into practice.

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