Statement from John Phillips, CEO of Aristotle Regarding the Internet Safety Technical Task Force Report
The Task Force universally agreed that research on the activities of registered sex offenders (RSOs) on Social Network Sites (SNS) is now needed. This is an important acknowledgment, given the fact that over 50,000 RSOs had been identified on MySpace as of
The Final Report acknowledges that layers of technology will work better to protect children on SNS than any one technology by itself. And the Task Force learned that MySpace is destroying the records of RSO use of MySpace, rather than making this data available for the very research the Task Force Final Report says is needed.
I am somewhat disappointed with other aspects of outcome of the ISTTF and recommendations set forth in the Final Report. The Task Force not only failed to identify online user authentication/verification tools for making SNS such as MySpace safer -- as instructed by Attorneys General -- but, also, failed to establish specific and objective criteria to evaluate technology safety solutions going forward.
I also believe the Task Force has created a false sense of security for parents (and the community at large) by overstating preliminary and exploratory research findings about sexual predation online, and underestimating the risk to minors on the vastly understudied area of predation on SNS.
The Task Force did not expressly call on MySpace to stop destroying the data it has on RSO use of MySpace, and to make it available immediately for study. I believe this was a serious failing of the group. Concerned parents, Attorneys General, and others must wonder how a Task Force with a research group -- all supposedly devoted to focusing on social network site safety -- could fail to review or -- at a minimum -- even request such that such irreplaceable data be preserved for study.
I am also disappointed that the final recommendations did not include one that we consistently proposed throughout the process to no avail: That is, to give families the tools they need, notice should be given to the user, and to the parent if known, the instant that an SNS has information that a child has even been contacted by an RSO on the site. Such contacts should never, ever be presumed innocent. We have community notification in the real world whenever an RSO moves into the neighborhood. If there is good reason to withhold such notice, such reason should have been included in the Report. The Final Report's complete silence on this issue -- an issue raised repeatedly by Aristotle during the public and private Task Force meetings -- is incomprehensible to us.
To date, MySpace has made no effort to alert minors (or parents of minors) who were previously contacted by one or more of the 50,000 known predators. What responsible citizen who bore witness to a sexual predator contacting a child would not feel compelled to notify the minor, the parent or appropriate authorities?
I urge all concerned parents and teens to visit www.childonlineprotectionservice.com to email MySpace and demand notification if they have been contacted by a sexual predator.
I believe that the omissions I have noted cast the overall objectivity of the Final Report into doubt. However, I am greatly encouraged by the call for study of RSOs on SNS. I hope that MySpace will be announcing immediately that it agrees with the Task Force, and will immediately make the data available for study rather than continue destroying it.
As predators become more adept at finding vulnerable teens online, we must be more vigilant in protecting the innocent from becoming another preventable statistic. As
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