back to article NY probes Facebook over pedophile controls

Facebook officials have been subpoenaed by New York's top law enforcement official after a preliminary review revealed "significant defects in the site's safety controls" designed to shield underage users from sexual predators. "The [office of the attorney general] is concerned that in Facebook's efforts to grow, the company …

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When will people learn

"which among other things calls Facebook a "trusted environment for people to interact safely" and says company officials "have invested heavily in building safety and privacy controls into Facebook"."

Trusted by whom? Just because your company has invested in safety and privacy controls does not make it a trusted environment or a place where people can interact safely. Prisons have invested heavily in safety controls, but you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who says they're a safe environment.

When will people learn that the Internet is not a safe place? Life is not safe. Why would you expect the Internet to be any different? The Internet is simply an alternative communication medium. It is no more safe than your phone (probably less so). Do you expect your phone company to proactively block harassing phone calls? Do you expect your phone or phone company to warn you if your 14-year-old child says something they shouldn't have or speaks with someone they shouldn't have? If not, then why would you expect an Internet service provider to do so (whether that provider provides your communication line or a service such as Facebook)? No technology can accurately and reliably proactively protect you from yourself.

The Internet is not safe. Life is not safe. It never was, and it never will be.

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@ when will people learn

I agree with you its stupid to think that the Internet is safe, but at the same time I think Facebook should have responded to the queries it recieved,

on the internet there is an audit trail to follow not following it is lazy and careless, an older man soliciting a minor for innappropriate things should be held accountable.

the guys profile should have been updated too

24 yr old male IS a paedo

so his other friends or groomed victims would know what this guy is up to.

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Damned if you do, Damned if you don't

Unfortunately for Facebook, they're in a bit of a tough spot. They can't take too many steps to prevent this kind of crap for fear of becoming more of content editor, and being liable for it, and yet if they do the minimum, they wind up with Gov't lawyers knocking on their doors.

Speaking as one who used to deal with this kind of crap, it's a really delicate balancing act, and it can get very expensive, fast.

The entertaining part here is that it's the advertising that seems to be getting them all the legal hourrah.

FYI, there's a ton more security and user safety measures that Facebook and Myspace can take to protect their users. None of it will be perfect or eliminate predators, or crime uses of the networks, but it does reduce it. But it's all about the $$$.

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Anonymous Coward

@Gower

"24 year old male IS paedo"

now not all 24 year old males are paedos thats assuming too much. Now

all 60 year old males are paedos because their legit partners are way too wrinkley.

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Ridiculous

Ok.. I can understand the frustration at Facebook not responding to take down requests.. naughty naughty.. for bad customer service.

BUT ... Myspace, Facebook, Bebo, Friends.ac all really cannot be held accountable for every single message being sent by their users. I think in this day and age, people are too quick to place blame with other people, rather than take responsibility in teaching their children how to use, what is a pretty powerful tool, a computer. You wouldn't let your kid run loose in a car without lessons, nor fly a plane, not even leave them with your credit card... but you'll let a child play unsupervised on the busiest of highways, the internet?

So the government want to blame online sites for the proliferation of sex offenders. Balancing things out then.. if Myspace, Facebook or Friends.ac are responsible for a 24yr old man sending lewd messages to a 14 year old. Then, by the same degree, if a 24 year old male approaches a 14 year old girl in the street, then is it the cities fault? No?

Fundamentally though its the parents to blame.. YOU are responsible for your child's behavior, YOU are responsible for their upbringing, and YOU are responsible if you let some naive teenager play around unsupervised or untrained on a powerful tool, and then wonder how the kid got themselves into trouble.

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Parental Control

If you value childrens online safety you have to ensure you teach them how to use the internet responsibly, educate them in understanding potential dangers and the people who will hide behind a fictitious identity to entice them into interaction. There is no substitute for real parental control irrespective of whether facebook or any similar company put in their own controls.

Until people start to wake up to the reality, take individual responsibility and look after their children online, the dubious characters will always be there. In truth you can never eliminate them entirely but you can minimise the risks by using some common sense.

Gary

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Anonymous Coward

Nice words

Nicely said Nick, That is one of the most sensible comments I have read regarding this.

I think the difference you have to keep in mind is the Internet grows at an amazing speed and parents struggle to keep up, while it is still their responsibility the child is assumed "safe" in their room by many which is no longer the case. You have to remember kids are more internet savy than most parents.

We hear stories of kids chatting, I recall one in the kitchen and her mother was always there while an older man would chat to her. Could her mother have done anything different as she checked every few minutes looking over her shoulder.?

Every message on the internet can be proofed before it goes out, if we can hire an indian call centre to answer 300k calls a day and give bad customer service a day I am sure it can handle messages from the internet.

Personally I would pay for a "secure proofed and sanitized internet for kids not matter how slow it was due to censorship" and I am sure many parents would.

Whilst giving Internet Access to kids does give them the ability to see another world and gain so much knowledge and communication skills it is a case of bringing the motorway to their bedroom.....

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Silver badge

Can't help but wonder

Technically, it is perfectly feasible to restrict profile viewing of adults to only other adult profiles. If that was done, then said 24-year old could simply not have sent a message to pseudo 13-year old since he would not have seen the "girl's" profile.

And if, for the sake of argument, one had to admit that sometimes adults should be able to view underage profiles, it could be restricted to requiring that the younger one initiate contact first, by sending a request to that effect. One could also imagine that parents could have automatic access to their offspring's profile for parental control.

If this measure was implemented, the only real issues we would have is with the real pedophiles posing as underage teens and trying to catch a new victim. Prosecution would be easy, because there is no way an adult can pretend that he didn't realize that he was creating an underage profile. Once caught, he'd be hooked for good.

So now, if this is technically feasible and not all that difficult to implement, why isn't it done ?

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@ Everyone

I think your missing the point of what the complaint was, they were not saying we are concerned about Facebook because it doesn't use them future scanning techno device to block communication between certain people from ever occurring.

What they are saying is we made a complaint about someone contacting our daughter for obviously inappropriate reasons and they didn't receive any customer support reply, even an automatic one saying how to block certain people yourself.

It's true that people have to live in this world so they need to get used to it and the dangers, and that parents are responsible for making sure their kids are up to safely living in this world but large corporations that make literally hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars profit have a duty by law to have certain standard safety measures in place. Nothing huge or undoable or vastly expensive either.

p.s. the internet is never going to safe certainly, but it is such a wonderful tool for learning and communication lets do what we can to allow people of any age to use it with a 'reasonable' degree of safety, as well as encourage them to know what they should be doing for themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Responsibilities

This isn't about whether Facebook is *responsible* for that 24y.o's posting. It's about them living up to their promises to do something about it when informed. Are they so flooded with requests to take sanction against inappropriate use that they can't keep up? I seriously doubt it.

Rick: Cities have police forces and vigilant citizens and the hope is that if a 24y.o. walked up to a 14 y.o. and asked her for nude pics, they'd get collared.

Chris: Phone companies have procedures in place to trace the origin of harrassing calls and to stop them happening.

Where in the article does it say that NY is trying to make Facebook responsible for the 24 y.o.'s actions?

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Anonymous Coward

Powerful tool

"...if you let some naive teenager play around unsupervised or untrained on a powerful tool, and then wonder how the kid got themselves into trouble."

Given the context, I find this choice of wording... unfortunate?

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@ Ridiculous

No No No - You've got it ALL wrong.

In America YOU are not responsible for anything. 'THEY' are. So if you buy a cup of coffee and spill it on yourself, then the seller of the coffee is at fault. If your child knocks you down in a store, it's the stores fault. If you do not have the time / motivation / skills / intelligence to raise a child properly then it's THEIR fault.

So if a 24yo man talks to a 14yo girl in the street, it IS the cities fault. THEY should have arrested him that morning and had him in jail by lunchtime. The mere fact that he may have been replying to HER request for directions is totally irrelevant.

If the 14yo girl is having an inappropriate online relationship with an 'older person', then the parents should be given a slapping as well as the 'older person'.

These social sites themselves are no more to blame than the Scouting Associations are for the pedophiles who gain entry into scouting. They should take action on complaints though, with investigation then appropriate action rather than ignoring this problem.

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@Rick

How very true: everyone today is awash with, and aware of their "rights".

Virtually all seem to have forgotten that their ain't no "right" without a concomitant responsibility.

Still, it suits the ruling "liberal elite" to keep we hoi-polloi spoon-fed and unthinking since we're easier to control.

It's the "Bread & Circuses" bastard offspring of "1984" and "Brave New World".

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What's the problem?

Pedophile - isn't that someone who has a thing about feet?

From:

Ped - Latin for 'foot'

Philos - Greek for Loving

Now, if we were talking about paedophiles, that would be another matter entirely!

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Anonymous Coward

Fairness, responsibility & reason

"Unfortunately for Facebook, they're in a bit of a tough spot... and yet if they do the minimum, they wind up with Gov't lawyers knocking on their doors."

Ah, the hypocrisy of government. Do as we say, & we'll still hit on you, for it, anyway. This reminds me of Mugabe's yes-men.

"THEY should have arrested him that morning and had him in jail by lunchtime."

THEY didn't bother to effectively govern him, in the first instance. Rather, THEY're behaving in a reactionary manner. This negates the fairness of any party seeking a governing judgment against him. Likewise, the government has never sought to govern Facebook, in this manner, before. Therefore, this is also unfair, as the State of NY would be 'moving the goalposts'. This is a very important point, as, ultimately, it scales up to either total & pre-emptive dictatorship or 'anything goes' no government at all.

re:Nick. Couldn't agree more with the parental aspect of needing to recognise the power of the internet-enabled computer. Likewise, one must be aware of the tendency for young men (obvious enough that the 24 year old, in question, is male), in particular, to routinely favour invasive behaviour, when they're not restrained by themself or others. All sides (State of NY, Facebook, the child's family & the 24 year old Facebook user) should've all behaved responsibly, in the first place. Else, there is no completely reasonable complaint.

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re: Can't help but wonder

"Technically, it is perfectly feasible to restrict profile viewing of adults to only other adult profiles. If that was done, then said 24-year old could simply not have sent a message to pseudo 13-year old since he would not have seen the "girl's" profile."

Show me this technology and I will give you ten million dollars. Of course, I don't have ten million dollars to give you, but that doesn't matter because you don't have the technology. To put it more clearly, there is NO technology to do what you say. it is NOT technically feasible to restrict profile viewing of adults to only other adults. That's why these sites are struggling with these issues in the first place.

Let me put it even more clearly -- there is literally no way to verify someone's age. Not on a website (in which the site operator has no direct contact with the person), nor in real life (where you do have direct contact with the person). The very best you can do is accept the person at their word. Require a credit card? No problem, dogs have been given credit cards before (no, sadly, I'm not joking). Require a scan of a driver's license? Fake IDs are quite prevalent. We can't even keep underage people out of bars which have doormen (bouncers). How are we supposed to keep them out of websites in which there is no direct interaction?

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Anonymous Coward

kids...

"Ped - Latin for 'foot'"

Pedo - Latin for 'child'.

I find it that 'ae' construct greatly annoying. Well, 'pedo' in Spanish at least, English does keep the 'ae', as in 'pAEdophile', 'EncyclopAEdia' and such. Maybe the original writer does not have English as his main language?

Anyway, I'm just annoyed at how much this paedo witch-hunt is going these days. I've seen it going so absurdly far, I was once told by some dude in a MUD not to have any kind of contact with X female character "because she's only 14". So what, even role-playing games are considered sex? Of course, these specific cases are real threats (the ones with the Facebook profiling) but it isn't like you can really do anything about it server-side, it is more of educating your kids to be cautious.

When I started using the internet, I was 14; however I was perfectly aware of the dangers of giving out too much info about myself and who to contact. My sister, however, was not that smart and put *all* her personal details on her MSN profile, including her full home addy. Imagine what kind of scolding came whem my dad found that out (I had not checked her profile, I didn't think she would do something like that.)

Now there is some guilt on these social sites; they insist on you giving this details. As for my profiles, I usually keep it to the city I live in. I don't want random people to be able to track me down to my living quarters....

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Pedophile?

I thought it was paedophile. Or pædophile. Or is it Peter File?

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Spelling...

Not sure whether it is spelled paedophile, pedophile or pædophile. I shall ask my wife - her spelling is pretty good for a 14-year-old.

(Note: to law enforcement fanatics and hysterical moral arbiters: I was being sarcastic and do not actually have a 14-year-old wife)

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Missing the point

Facebook is still in it's infancy - it has about 300 Staff, and at present about 420,000 new members per day, not to mention the 34 Million active members allready on there.

So if you do the maths, making the assumption that the 2 complaints mentioned went unanswered for any other reason than pure logistics is problematic.

Yes when Microsoft buys a share in it, and can throw some money and time at this problem, it is reasonable to eventually expect some kind of action and acountability for these complaints.

However even then it is not as simple is just disabling the account of anyone who is reported, the operators would need to audit and investigate, and even then it is likely that the accused will just create another account, this time he may register as a 14yr old girl using a proxy server located in Roumania.

So why bother? - Take some responsibility there are better ways to protect your kids online!

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