Friday, June 29, 2007

MySpace and the Media

Last week, Maine Attorney General Stephen Rowe made headlines by awaking from a deep, 20-year slumber and proclaiming himself a loyal subject of King George the Third.

NO, wait, that's Rip Van Winkle. My bad. But you can see how I might get them confused.

What Rowe did upon waking up from a two-year slumber (no less amazing, really) was stretch, belch, pour a cup of coffee, and start thinking about maybe, after lunch, trying to track down some sex offenders on MySpace.

In case your idea of being tech-savvy means proficiency at both abacus and typewriter, MySpace is a social networking website popular with young people, especially teenagers.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the Maine media, but several other states have already nabbed alleged perpetrators who allegedly used MySpace to try to lure alleged children into their alleged sordid grasp.

News reports here made Stephen Rowe seem innovative and tough on sex criminals for demanding cooperation from MySpace, even though he’s actually a Johnny-Come-Lately. While other states took action months ago, Rowe (screen name: “zzzzzzz”) waited around for more and more predators to gain access to Maine children before finally stepping forward to make noises to the effect of maybe doing something about it.

One would hope that MySpace, which has been obscenely popular for at least two years now, would have already done more to root out sex offender use on its own. After all, the site is owned by our culture's premium icon of integrity and wholesomeness: the same company that owns Fox News, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

(It's no secret that Murdoch and Fox News lean Republican. Consider the fact that the few liberal commentators they interview tend to have the intellect and debating skills of a Saint Bernard puppy. Plus, a recent investigation found that Bill O’Reilly has his own MySpace page, on which he declares that embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is, “like, sooooo hott!”)

As official mouthpiece for the GOP, we would expect Fox News and its parent company to stand up for decency, family values, and protecting our children from squalid, unclean influences.

Unless, of course, they can make more money by doing the opposite.

A recent study at Fresno State University found that 59 percent of MySpace users, including 71 percent of the 14-15-year-olds, posted sexually explicit or risqué materials on their sites. Often these innocent cherubs use the service to publish photos of themselves posing suggestively. Nearly ten percent of users also posted readily-accessible links to pornographic websites.

News Corp is not exactly moving swiftly to restrict their profitable teen-oriented site to only wholesome material.

If the rest of the media does, in fact, have a liberal bias, I’d like to know why Murdoch's inaction hasn’t been blown up into an obese, gnarled, pulsating scandal.

Instead, the media, at least here in Maine, seems wound up in the technicalities. The Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal each published a ghastly editorial June 29 criticizing Rowe for demanding too much information from MySpace. These papers feel law enforcement should only be able to get account information for a few sex offenders, those whose conditions of release prohibit them from using the Internet.

Uh-huh. If you're a convicted sex offender, and you signed up for a MySpace account for some reason other than to meet lonely, vulnerable teenagers, then step forward right now and I'll give you my entire life savings ($37.22) and the keys to my car (R.I.P.).

No takers? Hmph. Would have been a good deal two years ago.

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