Report Finds Internets are not 1/3 Pedophiles

Thursday, 2009-01-15; 19:51:35

My dad used to have a saying about chatrooms on the internets: 1/3 of them are teenagers, 1/3 of them are “sexual predators” going after those teenagers, and 1/3 of them are undercover FBI agents trying to catch the predators.

Unsurprisingly, when studies are actually done, it turns out that there’s not really a problem with underage sexual solicitation on the internet. So concluded the Safety Technical Task Force, which was created by attorneys general of 49 states in the U.S.

According to the New York Times:

The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.


Among the systems the technology board looked at included age verification technologies that try to authenticate the identities and ages of children and prevent adults from contacting them. But the board concluded that such systems “do not appear to offer substantial help in protecting minors from sexual solicitation.”

Unsurprisingly, Richard Blumenthal, attorney general of Connecticut, “said he disagreed with the report”, says the New York Times.

When is it going to get through to people that this isn’t a problem? I don’t think it ever was a problem. Throughout my life, I’ve participated significantly in chatrooms on Hotline (remember that?), GameRanger (remember that?), various message boards, instant messenging, and website commenting all when I was under 18, and I never once got approached by anyone for sex.

In fact, the internets have significantly improved my ability to do things with random people that never would have happened otherwise. I helped people fix problems on their Macs. I wrote documentation for a programmer in Belgium who wrote a Hotline client. I’ve learned a whole lot about Mac and iPhone development via Twitter. All by communicating with people I hadn’t known before and whom I had never met in person.

Furthermore, I’ve met many, many people in person whom I first met online. I’ve never had a problem with any one of them. I’ve met some oddballs, and some people who I probably don’t want to meet again, but I’ve never been in any danger.

When are people going to realize that this is false outrage? When are we going to stop devoting so much money and effort and time to try to stop a problem which doesn’t exist? Meeting and conversing with people on the internet is pretty much the same as meeting and conversing with people in person. You just have to be a little more cautious.

Would you give your physical address to someone the first time you meet them in person? No. So then don’t do it with someone you just met on the internet.

How do you meet someone in person whom you first met on the internet? The same way you do when you first meet someone in person: you’re almost always in a public place, during the day, maybe with a friend or two, maybe over coffee or something.

When do you trust someone from the internets enough to give them your phone number? After you’ve talked with them a few times, you get to know a little bit about them, after you’ve met them in person, etc. This is probably less of a big deal now that cell phones have proliferated everywhere, and you already have a means of communicating with someone whom you met on the internet.

Seriously, it’s not that hard to exercise common sense.

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