MySpace is a public place

A 14-year-old Texas girl assaulted by a 19-year-old boy she encountered online is suing MySpace for $30 million for not screening out underage users or sexual predators. From the Austin American-Statesman:

The lawsuit claims that the Web site does not require users to verify their age and calls the security measures aimed at preventing strangers from contacting users younger than 16 “utterly ineffective.”

. . . In May, after a series of e-mails and phone calls, (the 19-year-old) picked her up at school, took her out to eat and to a movie, then drove her to an apartment complex parking lot in South Austin, where he sexually assaulted her, police said. He was arrested May 19.

It’s hard to imagine a world in which trusting 14-year-old girls can be protected from harm.

College students also need to learn that MySpace is a public place, observes Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post.

I’m getting a little tired of reading all these “exposes” of Facebook and MySpace.

Hardly a week goes by without some newscast or newspaper discovering that it can be hazardous to the college or professional careers of young people to post pictures of themselves engaged in drinking, drugging, loving or other racy activity that might be frowned upon by some adult in a position of authority.

Okay, we get it. Hasn’t dumb judgment always been hazardous to your professional health?

Even politicians’ children, who you’d think might be used to public scrutiny, have been acting out on social networking sites. It’s not clear whether voters will condemn the political parents or sympathize.

Via Jeff Jarvis’ Buzz Machine. Like me, Jeff comes from the era when it was possible to act like a fool without sharing the photos with millions of people around the world or preserving youthful folly for posterity.

About Joanne


  1. Robert Wright says:

    MySpace is really something.

    Though you have to be 14 to have an account, my 7th graders register stating they’re 99 years old.

    They post comments back and forth as if they were sending encrypted email.

    I’m reading about latch-key sex, alcohol and drug use, driving without a license, cutting school.

    Yes, I have printed it out and forwarded it to parents. The students are outraged at their parents for violating their privacy. Amazing.

    With just a little googling it’s pretty easy to find any kid’s myspace.

    The longest it’s taken me is seven minutes.

    Even though a student can set his profile and comments to private, less than half do.

    If you want to know about your child’s sex or drug life, now’s the time to go to myspace and check up on them. I figure that by the end of the summer, they will have caught on.

    And if you want to see my myspace account, go to

  2. My concern is that bad judgment is much more typical of children and adolescents, and we don’t really expect them to know better; they should consider the consequences, but they don’t. It’s one thing to find incriminating photos posted by an adult online–he exhibited poor judgment. But a 13 year-old? He was very likely naive. Online networking sites are a part of the social worlds of older children now, and they are frequently too caught up in their own social worlds to consider how MySpace may appear to adults or how it may hurt them five or six years down the road. It’s certainly not fair, I think, to imply that a young girl should not be surprised to be assaulted because she was naive enough to trust some guy online. Trusting people is what 13 year-old girls do. Moreover, the internet provides a very convincing illusion of privacy–there seem to be a billion tiny personal sites out there; what are the chances that someone who shouldn’t will find yours? And since it’s clearly meant to be private, why would they be so mean as to rat you out?

    I’m inclined to think we should try to protect the privacy of children who are on MySpace and similar sites, even if it’s easy not to, because they’re in a precarious position where anyone will be able to find anything about them with just a Google search 10 years from now. They’re not actually doing anything better or worse than their predecessors, but, unlike those predecessors, the ability to destroy the evidence of their youthful bad judgment will be out of their control. They can’t just cut up the polaroid of that time they went skinny dipping while drunk because it’s stored on someone else’s hard drive or Google’s cache or something like this. Isn’t that a bigger problem than the age-old fact that kids have bad judgment?