Instructor Name 30 October 2011 Online and Responsible Technology often carries a measure of responsibility when it is used. Manufacturers, service providers, and end users all share a portion of this responsibility. The extent of the responsibility borne by each of these parties is debatable, as MySpace learned a few years ago when the company came under fire for a lack of diligence around profiles and sexual predators…
Sullivan discusses the fallout of the seemingly innocuous experiment run by Wired News reporter Kevin Poulsen, in which Poulsen matched registered sex offenders against MySpace profiles and discovered hundreds of matches (116). MySpace’s response was to hire a third party vendor to compare member profiles to registered sex offender rolls and “root out sex criminals from the site” (117). Debate arose, however, regarding the amount of time associated with the action that MySpace took. MySpace identified 7,000 profiles of members who were potentially on the registered sex offender rolls, but this action took several months. MySpace promptly deleted the profiles, but did not notify authorities at the same time (117). Sullivan states that “the presence of 7,000 registered offenders on the site—and the time span required to remove them, raises inevitable questions about MySpace’s ability to keep its neighborhood safe” (119). Conversely, Texas A & M student Kevin Alexander wrote “MySpace Not Responsible for Predators”, an article discussing the experience of a 14-year old girl who met and was allegedly raped by a 19-year old man she befriended on MySpace (119). Alexander argues that the lack of age verification by MySpace does not preclude the responsibility of those using the service to act with caution and common sense (119). He believes that culpability resides with the parent and child who made poor decisions with tragic consequences (120). When setting up a profile, MySpace users must sign a waiver indicating that they understand that MySpace has no control over the actions of its users online or offline (120). The nature of the MySpace service limits the amount of power the company has over who is a member at any given time. Even the action taken in the previous example in which MySpace checked member profiles against the registered sex offender rolls would not have identified this particular situation as a threat to anyone. Online users should be aware of the dangers inherent to cyberspace usage, protect their personal information, and only consider meeting online acquaintances in secure situations. Additionally, parents should educate their children, monitor their online behavior, and not allow them to meet strangers without supervision (120). According to Alexander, by suing MySpace, the mother in this case sends “the wrong message by deflecting the responsibility onto a Web site that has no control over sociopaths” (120). Both authors agree that there is a risk inherent to the use of services such as the one offered by MySpace. However, they differ in the assessment of who should assume the responsibility of mitigating this risk. Sullivan prescribes to the idea that companies are ultimately responsible to protect the end users of their products and services wherever possible. Sullivan implies that MySpace has a social responsibility to identify threats and take action to create a safe and secure environment, and to protect the children who use the service for fun and entertainment. Alexander believes that people must apply common sense and act in an individually responsible manner. Users should be cautious and careful in all online interactions, and should not depend on the company to do this for them. The best ...
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