Wired has an Idiocy Problem

Filed as News on April 21, 2006 7:29 am

I’ve always been a fan of Wired News. Ever since the early geek days when the cypherpunks ruled the cover of Wired Magazine, it’s been the solution to my never-ending quest for more geeky news on the bleeding edge of technology.

This week, Wired News publishes the results of a comparison between the California Sex Offender Database and MySpace users and comes up with the easily predictable results:

Wired News ran the names of randomly selected registered sex offenders in San Francisco and neighboring Sonoma County through MySpace’s user search engine, and turned up no fewer than five men whose self-reported names, photographs, ages, astrological signs, locations and (in two instances) heights matched those of profiles on the state’s online sex offender registry.

In two additional cases, the information posted on MySpace was sufficient to suggest a probable but not certain match. Repeated e-mails to all seven men through MySpace were not answered.

On the surface, this article appears to be nothing more than yet another attempt to attack the popular social networking service with hints of a ‘criminal problem’, which has been a popular angle in recent weeks. After spending time reading the article, I’m convinced that it’s nothing more than another hatchet job against MySpace.

Criminals will always use whatever technology is available to them in order to commit their criminal acts. As one commenter noted in their comment on the post at wired.com, 97% of sexual offenders have a telephone, should they have to disclose the fact that they’re a convicted sex offender whenever they answer the phone – or make a phone call?

As a former criminal justice professional, I’ve always had a problem with sex offender registration lists. I believe that registration leads to community ostracism and potential violence or ‘shunning’ of a person who has already served time for their offense. Yes, I’m well aware that the recidivism rate for sex offenders is very high – but so is the recidivism rate for criminals in general.

This problem isn’t MySpace’s problem. What does the author expect them to do? Ban all sex offenders? Conduct a background check before someone can blog?

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  1. By Marti posted on April 22, 2006 at 6:58 am
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    What about Xanga and LiveJournal? There are as many teenagers using them, I imagine (mine do!)

    Can’t put the genie back in the bottle…the technology of the internet allows people to easily communicate with one another – doesn’t matter what MySpace does, another site for teens (and predators) will just pop up.

  2. By Zach Inglis posted on April 22, 2006 at 9:39 am
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    Oh please!

    Your arguments are as weak as theirs.

    There are many playgrounds around so we should allow convicted peodofiles to go there?

    A telephone is completely different from MySpace. They have different markets. Sure a teenager uses a phone a lot but so does a middle aged man in an office. Myspace is like a playground in the sense that the younger generations are on there mostly and if you think a lot of sex offenders are on there by chance rather than alternative motives, your in denial. Everyone knows if you want to flirt with others, MySpace is the place to go.

  3. By Matt posted on April 22, 2006 at 2:24 pm
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    In most areas, there is not a law that keeps a person from going to a playground as a registered sex offender.

    They’ve served their time – why continue to punish them for the rest of their lives?

    ~Matt

  4. By Mike posted on April 23, 2006 at 10:36 pm
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    How many users on MySpace? I mean, who expects 0% of known criminals from such a large sample?

    That’s like saying: “We ran a list of names through the phonebook of NYC and got several matches!”

  5. By Maverick Bibliographer posted on April 24, 2006 at 9:22 am
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    Why continue punishing them? For the simple reason that those sex offenders molested/abused a child, the most vulnerable member of society. As far as I am concerned, ostracism is too good for them. Heck, hanging is too good for them. Thieves I can understand. Murderers too. Destroying a child’s life? Not even other crooks like those folks. And by the way, yes, we should make the distinction between the “Romeo and Juliet” situations and the true older perverts out there preying on kids. Having said all that, not MySpace’s problem. Problem of parents not monitoring their kids for one. Why not start there?