Social networking websites are not only tools for criminals and social pariahs to mine their perversions, but also increasingly for law enforcement to collect evidence and set traps. MySpace.com is the latest online area being scoured, this time to find information related to seven teenage girls who say they’ve been assaulted by men they met through the site.
The Associated Press reports that Connecticut police are investigating the cases involving girls ages 12 to 16 who say they were "fondled or had consensual sex" with men who lied about their ages on MySpace.
MySpace.com responded in a statement that site operators were committed to providing a safe environment, complete with available safety tips, and has a minimum age requirement of 14 years old. MySpace admits to the difficulty, though, of policing the breadth of its 47 million plus members for age verification.
Though authorities and adults have shown concern over the immense popularity of MySpace, the members are vehemently protective of their cherished home on the Web. When News Corp. shelled out $580 million to acquire MySpace, users loudly voiced concerns about censorship, privacy, and the possibility of the Fox parent company imposing access fees.
Dateline NBC too has felt the wrath of members who felt the stories presented on the show focused too much on the inner demons associated with unmonitored adolescence like binge drinking, drug use, and predation.
"I am 17 and I have a Myspace page. While there may be cases of drinking and other things but I have noticed that you did not mention anything that was remotely positive about MySpace at all. Like the fact that people use it to talk to people who live far away; also people use it as a place to express themselves and to get frustrations out… I know that it makes a good story to show the ‘horrors’ of what can happen on it, but that can happen anywhere on the internet. It is just a matter of the child and the adults being responsible about it," writes Jessica Underwood.
Dateline has garnered some attention lately by teaming up with sexual predator watchdog group Perverted-Justice.com and area law enforcement to nab would-be offenders by posing as 12 or 13 year-old boys and girls online.
Community directory-listing sites like Craigslist are also often used by police to bust drug dealers and prostitutes.
For parents needing advice on how to protect their children online, BlogSafety.com is an online resource for teens, parents, and educators to learn of the dangers of online social groups and the best methods for staying safe.