Who Wins If MySpace Loses?

What happens if Scott Karp and the MySpace moralists win…(via danah.org

…If MySpace falters in the next 1-2 years, it will be because of this moral panic. Before all of you competitors get motivated to exacerbate the moral panic, think again. If the moral panic succeeds:

  1. Youth will lose (even more) freedom of speech. How far will the curtailment of the First Amendment go?
  2. All users will lose the safety and opportunities of pseudonymity, particularly around political speech and particularly internationally.
  3. Internet companies will be required to confirm the real life identity of all users. At their own cost.
  4. International growth on social communities will be massively curtailed because it is much harder to confirm non-US populations.
  5. Internet companies will lose the protections of common carrier which will have ramifications in all sorts of directions.
  6. Internet companies will see a massive increase in subpoenas and will be forced to turn over data on their users which will in turn destroy the trust relationship between companies and users.
  7. There will be a much greater barrier for new communities to form and for startups to build out new social environments.
  8. International companies will be far better positioned to create new social technologies because they won’t have to abide by American laws even if American citizens use their technology (assuming the servers are hosted outside of the US). Unless, of course, we decide to block sites on a nation-wide basis….
Explore posts in the same categories: new media, rebuttal, research, responsibility, smart

15 Comments on “Who Wins If MySpace Loses?”

  1. Scott Karp Says:

    Is there no middle ground between “moral panic” and complete abdication of responsibility?

    I’ve been leaving this little sample on MySpace apologist websites like yours. Would love to know whether you think this is “OK”

    So I go to the MySpace homepage and click on browse: http://browseusers.myspace.com/Browse/Browse.aspx?MyToken=632785638024787064

    Where I find Cassy (who knows if she’s really 23): http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=58903976

    Where I find her friend David (scroll right): http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=52160444

    All it took was 30 seconds and three clicks.

    But let me be clear — this isn’t about the availability of pornography on the Web. It’s about pornography being tied to a personality, e.g. David, who is inviting minors to connect, to be his “friend.” It’s about the ease of minors stumbling on pornography without having to look for it. It’s about how minors might perceive pornography found on the “safe” MySpace vs. pornography found on sites that are principally about pornography. It’s about the slippery slope of the social acceptability among minors of posting images on their own pages that either approach or by some standards are pornography. It’s about the permanent digital record of any mistakes these minors make along the way.

    It’s about completely BRAND NEW phenomena that we haven’t even begun to study and understand — Danah Boyd’s essays are very thoughtful, but they’re just the first step in a thousand mile journey.

    I DON’T think the answer is censorship and 1st amendment infringement — if there’s something I’m trying to “win,” you’re putting words in my mouth to say that it’s that. (Although I’m sure it sells well.)

    But I DO think just turning our backs and letting the children figure it out when WE haven’t even figured it out is a morally bankrupt course.

  2. chartreuse Says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying that children should be introduced to pornography. I was bothered by the fact that 9rules did not say explicity in the beginning what they were going to be doing to stop minors access to their blogs.

    And I’m sorry if I ‘put words in your mouth’. But the rabidness of the MySpace lynch mob is frightening.

    Every generation thinks their generation is the end of the world.

    Elvis (who’s song Heartbreak Hotel was the 5th most downloaded song last week according to Billboard) was going to destroy the social fabric of the US.

    Then it was rap music.

    Then it was videogames.

    Now it’s MySpace.

    The song remains the same. We (adults) don’t understand it so it must be bad.

    That’s not a train I’m hopping on.

    There are plenty of filters available for parents who think MySpace is a threat to civilization.

    The funny thing is, they are probably the same ones last week downloading Elvis.

  3. Erik Says:

    “…If MySpace falters in the next 1-2 years, it will be because of this moral panic.

    If MySpace fails it’s going to because they have too much traffic and no way to monetize it. Expenses will rise and revenue will stay flat.

    It’s an interesting and thoughtful piece that ignores the fact that this is a business.

  4. Scott Karp Says:

    Do you really think the MySpace example I posted above is equivalent to Elvis’ gyrating hips? Do you not see any difference between the implicit and the explicit, between images viewed at distance and direct interactive connections.

    If you don’t, well then I’m tempted to say, with all due respect, that you’re being blinded by your own bandwagon at best and just a garden variety fool worst.

    But you’re a smart guy, so I’d love to hear you address the issue instead of avoiding it with facile rhetoric.

    Forget the “lynch mob” straw man.

    Do you think that the David’s on MySpace should prompt any action of any kind?

  5. chartreuse Says:

    The Davids of MySpace should be stopped. That’s a given. In a lot of cases the community of social networks (like ebay) police themselves. Ever wondered why it’s hard to find porn on YouTube? It’s because the community flags it and it is quickly taken down. So the problems you are talking about can be contained and handled. Easily.

    Read http://www.articlealley.com/article_31874_3.html It’s all about monetizing social networks.

  6. Erik Says:

    Oooh, you found it on the internet, it must be true…

    With all due respect to Mr Jones, he has no idea what he’s talking about. Any idea who he is, what he’s done or why anyone should listen to him?

    While tightly controlled networking sites like linkedin can make significant money on advertising, (I’d actually bet linkedin makes most of their money on the jobs listing classifieds) selling ads against unknown content is difficult to do.

    At Y! we found it very difficult to sell the Geocities inventory.

    The rev share on media transactions is a joke, the retail margins on media are razor thin as it is. Apple breaks even on the music store so they can keep selling iPods at 60% gross margin.

  7. Scott Karp Says:

    What makes you think that MySpace “lynch mob” you so sensationally characterize is asking for anything more that what YouTube does? Some communities police themselves. MySpace doesn’t — so let’s fix it.

    Who is calling for censorship? I certainly haven’t.

    Really, don’t be a shining example of exactly the behavior you’re condemning.

  8. chartreuse Says:

    I agree. Let’s fix it. Really.

  9. Matt Jones Says:

    “Youth will lose (even more) freedom of speech. How far will the curtailment of the First Amendment go?”

    Are you kidding? Anything a teen says on myspace can be heard in many other places on the web. Nobody complained that they didn’t have complete freedom of speach before Myspace and no one will if it ever disappears. Teens will always find a way to express their opinions.

    Isn’t policing just another form of cencorship? Maybe I’m wrong but it seems the same to me. I’m all for policing on myspace just like they have on youtube but I still think it’s just a different form of cencorship.

    But what do I know…

  10. Brian Says:

    Scott, what you linked to on MySpace (thanks for the non-work-safe warning, btw) has been going on since free web pages were born. If my kids had been born in the early 90s, I’d have been watching their use and exploration of Geocities as they got older.

    The MySpace problem is not new, it’s just that the Internet adoption rate is higher. Once parents finally find out something is going on, it becomes a problem, right?

    Now, does this pose problems for MySpace as a business? Yes. But let’s get back on topic here. Pointing out what you can find on MySpace like it’s a new phenomenon just demonstrates that you haven’t been paying attention to the Internet for very long. Kids are quite adept at finding what they want to look at online.

  11. Scott Karp Says:


    My lack of a warning was purposeful — I wanted to convey the experience of minors on MySpace STUMBLING on this sort of thing — in contrast to minors who ACTIVELY SEEK porn online (which, you’re right, is not new).

    “The MySpace problem is not new”

    Oh, but it is. To see it, you’ve got to take off the black-and-white goggles and get past the facile comparisons to the past.

    Let me repeat:

    “But let me be clear — this ISN’T about the availability of pornography on the Web. It’s about pornography being tied to a personality, e.g. David, who is INVITING minors to connect, to be his “friend.” It’s about the ease of minors STUMBLING on pornography WITHOUT having to look for it. It’s about how minors might PERCEIVE pornography found on the “safe” MySpace vs. pornography found on sites that are principally about pornography. It’s about the slippery slope of the SOCIAL ACCEPTABILITY among minors of posting images on their own pages that either approach or by some standards are pornography. It’s about the PERMANENT DIGITAL RECORD of any mistakes these minors make along the way.”

    First porn was available on the newstand. Then it was available online. Now its available on MySpace — not just some random porn site’s space, MY space — the place that teenagers say is their social lifebood.

    There’s an evolutionary leap forward.

    There are so many new layers of issues — to argue that it’s the same old thing is to take an utterly shallow look at the problem.

    I’m NOT saying that panic is the answer or that these issues can’t be addressed constructively — I’m saying that we have A LOT to learn.

  12. Brian Says:

    Scott, you make some good points, but I’ll say it again: Porn has been available on sites, freely accessible to kids and not only on “some random porn site’s space” or sites “principally about pornography” for a long time. MySpace is just doing a great job of alerting everyone that it goes on, thanks to its unprecedented popularity.

    So I take issue with your “utterly shallow” characterization. Just because *you* are just now starting to think about the problem does not necessarily make it more complex. Can you identify for me these “new layers” you speak of?

    The popularity and social aspect of MySpace *does* allow for the inadvertant introduction of bad stuff to good kids. But the root is really just hyperlinking, the underlying basis of the web itself. The problem is amplified, but that has led to awareness, which is good for parents.

    Kids have built websites on free homepage services for 10 years, and they’ve linked to one another for 10 years. All acceptable use policies from Homestead to GeoCities to Blogger to MySpace forbid porn and other problem content, but the problem is STILL detection and enforcement.

    Greater scale = greater awareness = the sky is falling.

    Let’s just both agree to hope that now that the problem has seen the bright light of day for more people that something can be done about it. I don’t want my kids “stumbling” across this stuff, and I don’t want it to become more socially acceptable.

    I suspect the greater awareness will lead to more of the MySpace watchdog services that are springing up. But you can’t just shut it down, or the kids will just go to a darknet. Hell, they probably will anyway.

  13. […] Indeed. Much as I tried to shy away from the moral questions, they came after me with a vengeance — I became a foil for the anti-moralizer moralizers. […]

  14. Brian Says:

    As the comments over at Nick Carr’s site point out, MySpace isn’t “new” and “complex” it’s retro Web 0.5 stuff.


    Scott doesn’t ever know when to stop talking or — god forbid –admit he’s wrong.

  15. Jabbadaddy Says:

    I have a 14 year old daughter who is on My Space. Much to her dismay, I monitor her site and use. I’m afraid I’m addicted to being a good parent and attempting to protect my child in a world gone crazy with too much too soon. I could prohibit her from joining, but would that do any real good? She might just be tempted to join and use a new ID that I don’t know about.
    Therein lies the problem. It should be absolutely mandatory that a credit card be used to sign up for My Space or any other Web Site and a charge levied that will show up on the CC statement. I really don’t care if it is $1 and is refunded later. This would make sure that (1) Parents are aware that their children have signed up and are using the site. (2) Allow the establishment of age verification.
    The minimum age preferably should be 18 or over, but I might see my way to perhaps 16 (with parents knowlege and permission)as a minimum.
    If this site persists in being what it is and run as it is, if there continues to be abuse, molestation,preditors of younger more naive kids threats, x rated content and even connection to murder (Pennsylvania case recently). I am relatively sure there will be very vigorous action taken to impose restrictions.
    The site should be responsible and institute the needed changes and usage parameters on their own.
    In short, My Site needs to CLEAN UP IT’S ACT Now!

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