In Which I Don a Tinfoil Hat

Early last month I posted about the MSNBC Dateline special, "To Catch a Predator." Take a look at the post if you need a refresher; basically, it's a "gotcha" show where they catch and arrest people soliciting sex with minors over the internet. The tone of the show kind of disgusted me.

Anyway. Last night, I'm flipping channels, and "To Catch a Predator" is on again. A quick look at television listings shows that MSNBC has been re-running these programs for a month since they aired. Over and over again... special reports that sledgehammer into your skull the same thing... if your children go on the internet, they will be molested!

It could be that I've been more aware of the trend because I was sensitized to these types of stories, but there's been an awful lot of "internet predator" news these days, on television and in print. The big bugaboo is MySpace; apparently the Dateline folks were shocked... shocked to discover the site. Never heard of it? Just ask your kids. They know.

It's a cyber secret some of them like to keep from their tech-challenged parents. I think of myself as a savvy dad, but I was shocked by some of what I found on the site. Friday night on Dateline we'll show you what you need to know about MySpace and other social networking sites to keep your kids safe.

MySpace is sort of a cyber diary, yearbook and social club. It's free, easy to join, and easy to message other members. You're supposed to be at least 14 to sign up but we found younger kids using it. Kids design their own MySpace page and most chat back and forth about school, sports, gossip etc. What is this you speak of?

When you're finished guffawing over "It's a cyber secret some of them like to keep from their tech-challenged parents," I'll continue. The media loves to portray MySpace as this bizarre entity that somehow manifested itself overnight, but that's a little like acting shocked over the existence of Ebay.
Originally launched in April 1999 as, its founders,
entrepreneurs Paul Hirner and Ari Freeman, changed its name to
in 2000. The current MySpace service was founded in July 2003.
MySpace is the current popular target of fearful parents, to the point where ridiculous lawsuits are being filed.

People have been "cyber stalking" since the internet first came into being, folks. I remember people trying to get laid over Usenet newsgroups and IRC before web browsers existed. This is not a new phenomenon. It's not just happening on MySpace. However, the phenomenon isn't as prevalent as you might think.

So, why all the sudden flurry of media activity regarding internet predators? Sure, it's profitable... MSNBC wouldn't be re-running the same three programs for weeks on end otherwise. The Fear-Flavor of the Month is pedophiles online, and everyone's running with it; there's money to be made!


But is there something else associated with the sudden flurry of "Fear the Internet" stories?

Well... there is that "Net Neutrality" thing.

And MSNBC is owned by General Electric and Microsoft, who would love to see Net Neutrality completely eliminated. And if there's one thing we learned from the Iraq war, boo-scary stories played ad infinitum in the mass media definitely helps the anti-civil-liberties legislation medicine (and lies) go down.

It'll be a lot easier to get Americans to agree to dismantling Net Neutrality if they're thinking, "I don't care if my internet is slower and I'm being watched online, as long as my kids are safe."

The internet must not be taken over, lock, stock and barrel, by corporations, simply because parents have been frightened by misleading spook shows. Getting rid of "Net Neutrality" will not end "cyber stalking," or make pedophiles vanish off the face of the earth.

Sign the petition. Bug your senators. And point out irresponsible, fear-mongering media when you see it.

(Oh what a beautiful cross-post... oh, what a beautiful day...)

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