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MySpace's Catch-22

Let's go to the tape and review the time line:

  1. Politicians claim that there is a big problem with sex offenders on social networks.
  2. Social networks take steps to identify and remove sex offenders.
  3. Massive year-long study comes out as part of a partnerships between academics, industry and 49 attorney generals that shows that, while collaborative efforts to protect children on social efforts is a worthy effort, risks to kids from strangers aren't more acute in the online world as they are in the offline world.
  4. Politician claims that there is a big problem with sex offenders on social networks and demands to know how many sex offenders have been found by the properties.
  5. Big social network responds to politician and says that they have identified and removed tens of thousands of possible sex offenders.
  6. Politician uses this information to claim that there is a big problem with sex offenders on social networks.

TechDirt nicely sums up this Catch-22:

…you'd think (Connecticut Attorney General) Blumenthal would be thrilled to have some "proof" that the
systems he pushed MySpace to put into place are working, that they'd
blocked 90,000 would-be predators from contacting kids through the
site. You'd be wrong.

Blumenthal instead says
the figure "provides compelling proof" that refutes the study that came
out a few weeks back — the study commissioned by Blumenthal and 48
other state attorneys general — which downplayed the sexual-predator threat social networks posed to children, like other research before
it. So because the system he pushed MySpace to put into place is able
to identify registered sex offenders, it supposedly proves that this is
a real problem, one that he isn't blowing out of proportion, and that
MySpace has "monstrously inadequate counter-measures." While we'd argue
that most any counter-measure MySpace uses would be inadequate at
stopping sexual abuse (because they're fighting a problem that likely isn't that big),
it makes little sense why Blumenthal sees MySpace's success at
identifying sex offenders in its system, just like he wanted, as a bad
thing. It's really hard for MySpace to fight a problem that isn't
there, but that doesn't fit Blumenthal's political version of reality.