May 22 2008

All Sex Offenders Are Over 36

faceparty logoEver heard of Faceparty? I know I haven’t and I even work for the largest blog in the world for social networking, and recent news about how they are battling sexual predators is the first I’ve ever heard of them.

Melissa Gira Grant of Valleywag, the gossip rag of the Web 2.0 crowd, wrote this story up yesterday, and I am just blown away by it. It seems that in the United Kingdom, there is a proposal for a new law that would require websites to check member’s email address against a list of addresses registered of those used by known sexual offenders. Now, mind you, this is not law yet, but just a proposal, but Faceparty felt they should go ahead and comply.

This caused a problem for the social network because they have never verified the email addresses used bu their members were legitimate, so they had to come up with another plan of action. What did they decide was the easiest course of action? Why to delete all members over the age of 36 of course!

Yes! Why didn’t I see this before? You can identify all sexual predators by their age! There has never been a sexual crime committed by say a college-aged person, or someone in their 20’s, it is only those people over 36 that do this. A quote from the company tries to clarify their move:

“We understand that only a minority of older users are sex offenders, but you must understand that we cannot tell which”

Of course there is no way to tell which is which because this is a completely arbitrary decision with no real basis.

faceparty avsSo, honestly I was willing to ignore this, contrary to popular belief, I do actually get tired of always being pissed off, but then I went and visited their site. Towards the bottom of their page, I found a link labeled “Adult Verification“, so I of course had to follow it, and I find a page all about protecting children… while using sexually suggestive models and telling you how if you sign up for this pay service, £8.95 a month, they’ll give you access to all the adult photos and unmoderated pictures that users just posted!

Does anyone see some conflicting principles at play here? On the one hand, they want to “protect the children”, but on the other hand they are willing to sell you the ability to see adult material if you are over the age of 18. I have never seen any other social network do such a thing, and I have to say the whole things reeks of bad decisions or ageism to me, but the company cut that off also:

“Despite malicious rumours spread by a few people on the website, it is not true that we have deleted members due to ‘ageism'”

Then explain the willingness to have such conflicting policies. Explain how you came up with the age of “36” being the magical number to determine who may or may not be a sex offender. Why not 25? Why not 30?

Yes, I must admit I’m 36, but, no, I have never had a Faceparty account, but I do belong to numerous other social networks, so I do have a dog in this fight, and all I can hope that this is an isolated, ignorant, decision, and not a sign of things to come.

Is there good reason for people over 36 to be on networks? I think so. I’ve been able to reconnect with many people I lost contact with over the years, I can stay in easy contact with other friends I have spread all over the planet, and I know some people in that age range who are on networks so they can monitor what their kids are doing.

As I have said before when it comes to policing social networks for sexual predators, where are the parents in all of this? If people would realize that if parents were more involved with their kids, setting limitations on what they can do with the computer, and how, you wouldn’t have to worry about social networks doing it for you.

I’m not sure that this is what this particular case is about though. In my purely cynical opinion, based strictly on my random speculation, and I would be interested to see how many people over the age of 36 signed up for their age verification service. I would hate to suggest this was some bizarre way to cut some bandwidth expenses, but you kind of have to wonder if there wasn’t some possibility that this was a way to cut some of their least profitable customers.

I’m all for protecting children, but I certainly think there are more tasteful ways of doing it.

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