Tuesday, May 22, 2007

MySpace to give up names of registered sex offenders.

Man, this is a tough one. My many sides are really battling each other.

The librarian side of me screams about the rights of privacy and shuns them for giving in.
My business side wonders if it was necessary in order to keep the website alive... one too many lawyers to hire and enough bad publicity.

My researcher side of me tells me that underage children are lying about their identities on the site as well.

My educator side agrees and says we need to teach or children about digital ethics and how not to invite trouble into your life.

My logical side agrees and knows that this wont stop unregistered pedifiles from getting to our children.

Which leads to my rational side of me wondering if there are better ways of creating profiles that help avoid these problems on Myspace.

And through all this, the parent in me says damned straight! It is amazing how strong that voice became when my wife gave birth to our child.

All in all, I really don't know how to think of this. Yeah, in a way I feel that they are convicts and deserve what they get now; but they are still citizens and therefore have all the rights of any other citizens despite their past actions... and some people do reform and have the right to a normal life.

I simply don't know... anyone else?

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At May 22, 2007 11:18 AM, Blogger A. Rivera said...

A nice summary of the various views. The sides that resonate with me are the librarian (the privacy) and your last one about they being convicts. That last one because, while they certainly should be punished for their crime, once they have paid their debt to society, they should be able to rejoin said society as citizens like anyone else (whether they reform or not is another discussion, but if they did their time, the assumption is they have repaid the debt), including the right of privacy the rest of us take for granted.

And yes, I am a parent too, but I actually take the time to educate my child and watch over the child, something a lot of parents refuse to do.

In the end, it seems pretty clear MS is doing it to avoid either a major lawsuit or just some "knee jerk" legislation, but that would be the business side, so what else is new. As you point out, it is a tough one.

At May 22, 2007 11:46 AM, Blogger Liz B said...

Personally, I'm amazed that convicted sex offenders are using their real names on MySpace. Especially if its a sex offender who is not allowed on computers. (Sorry to be uber picky, but often sex offenders, particulary those convicted of felonies, don't have the same rights; it's even happened where libraries are notified about people who have been released because that person being in the library would be a violation.)

Speaking from a PR aspect, MySpace should have played the "we're only making sure we're complying with the law" angle up, in the sense of "if we don't, police cannot prosecute." Given how sensitive an issue this is, no one is helped if I'm saying "MySpace isn't a problem" while headlines are saying MySpace protects child molesters. What will the concerned parent remember?

As for giving the information, what is the members right to privacy here? Is there a subpoena? Is there a legal argument for turning over the information? What exactly does MySpace's terms & conditions represent to its members? Do members have any expectation of privacy at all concerning this information? We're not talking library records (or other records) that are explicity protected by the law.

What makes a child easy prey is not an easy thing to determine. What can libraries do? Educate, both parents and teens, about the online world. Which can be done in many ways: classes, books, one on one with kids.

I think MySpace and other online places are in a tough spot. How do you verify? What is their role? In a way, I see some similar concerns as to your YA librarianship post. Just because teens use MySpace, why should MySpace be viewed as a babysitter, or with elevated requirements because of teen usage? But if MySpace is aware of teen usage and profits from it, how can it turn a blind eye to the resulting abuses?

Lots of questions. No easy answers.

At May 22, 2007 3:22 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Why is the "librarian" the one that disagrees with the decision? Aren't there other instincts that a librarian should have, other than or in addition to a reflexive support for freedom of speech and access to speech?

These are people who have been convicted of a crime with a remarkably high recidivism rate who are engaging in conduct that is inherantly suspect. Sure, there could be any number of legitimate reasons why these folk are getting MySpace accounts but, frankly, I have trouble coming up with any. Moreover, a very significant fraction of these folk will probably be subject to conditions of supervised release that prohibit them from engaging in this activity, ie., they have agreed, as a condition of their release from confinement, not to do this.

Whatever you choose to assume based on the fact that they have "paid their debt," the reality is that this is very suspect behavior.


At May 24, 2007 8:15 AM, Blogger Tyler Rousseau said...

I'm not sure if I would call it a reflexive support for the first ammendment. As librarians, we tend to value our patrons right to privacy, and although this isn't a true librarianship issue, it will make patrons second-guess using our resources (if we cannot vouch for privacy).

As far as the other issue with registered sex offenders, it is a partisan issue; I'll leave you to your opinion and me to mine ;)

At May 26, 2007 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the policies and terms of service requiring users to forgo any right to privacy and laws for convicts tending to agree with this, there is no ethical considerations for MySpace. A purely legal and business decision.

The most concerning aspect of MySpace is the fact that minors, without the consent of adults, can agree to such contracts without fully understanding the implications of placing private information in the public domain.


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