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Put It Down to Moral Panic
January 13, 2009 1:42 PM   Subscribe

A high-profile task force created by 49 state attorneys general to find a solution to the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.
posted by theroadahead (55 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sure, but what if you put the zipcodes of NBC "to Watch a ...." viewers into a Google Map?
posted by cavalier at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2009


Hi. I'm Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC. bigjohnson35, do you know where I can get a job?
posted by schleppo at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


A lot of that hysteria was due to misleading vividness.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that older adults were using these popular sites to deceive and prey on children.

But the report compared such fears to a “moral panic” and concluded that the problem of child-on-child bullying, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.


Oh, that's a relief, then.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2009


So online predators are the new Satanic cults?
posted by cimbrog at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Which state wasn't involved in this?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:47 PM on January 13, 2009


Good news!

So, uh....

a/s/l?
posted by dios at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not a problem in 49 states?

So you're saying it's all centralized in Puerto Rico and Guam. I read you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:51 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still looking for the 14 year olds who want to bang old retarded men. They seem to be in short supply.
posted by andryeevna at 1:53 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Which state wasn't involved in this?

You forgot Poland.

Oh. Sorry.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 1:54 PM on January 13, 2009


This study just looked at Myspace and Facebook, two reasonably well moderated soical network sites, not the totality of the internet which includes unfiltered and possibly more real threats like sketchy chat rooms and cortex's homepage.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:55 PM on January 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't have much sympathy for any of the people who were caught in any of the online stings, but at the same time, anybody who knows much about this stuff knows that there's more of a threat from family and neighbors. (Hell, when I was 15, I was solicited for sex by a passing motorist on the way to a friends house at 10 in the morning.) And at this point, it seems like people are tuning in more for thrills than any kind of desire for justice.
posted by jonmc at 1:57 PM on January 13, 2009


So, wait. You mean that the constant media bombardment I've gotten for the past half decade about the fact that there were sexual predators hiding under every bed and behind every bush might have been a little over-reactionary?

I mean, if I can't trust the media's assessment of the kinds of things I should live in fear of, who can I rely on?

Hell, next you'll tell me that the sky isn't blue or that the drug war is all a big lie and marijuana isn't deadly the first time you take or some other crazy talk.
posted by quin at 1:59 PM on January 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not a problem in 49 states?

So you're saying it's all centralized in Puerto Rico and Guam. I read you.


Why does everyone always forget about DC????
posted by inigo2 at 1:59 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.”

What a bizarre statement.
posted by gurple at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2009


Are we talking about "Hey, want to meet up and play WoW sometime?" [At which point I plan to abduct you and sell you into child pornography.] Or are we talking about "You're 14 and I'm 37 but will you come over to my apartment and fellate me?"
posted by Joe Beese at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Without witches, whom will we now burn?

Without scapegoats, in whose purifying blood will we bathe our sins?
posted by orthogonality at 2:02 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


These state attorneys obviously haven't spent much time at 4chan.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:03 PM on January 13, 2009


Won't someone think of the...oh
posted by mandal at 2:04 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obviously our kids are spending all their time giving and getting plo chops, leaving no time for getting preyed upon by predators, or being forced to play D&D.
posted by fleacircus at 2:05 PM on January 13, 2009


On preview - holy shitwhistles, yhbc, how have I not seen that PDF before?
posted by FatherDagon at 2:09 PM on January 13, 2009


So what's the next big "think of the children" panic?* Personally, I'm voting for discovering that people whose blogs show comments from newest to oldest by default are found not only to be developmentally disabled but also eat children and puppies.

* Can I make money from it?
posted by maxwelton at 2:10 PM on January 13, 2009


Shrug. And the idea that predation is mostly people you know is new why?

Oh, because we don't talk about that.
posted by yeloson at 2:11 PM on January 13, 2009


So online predators are the new Satanic cults?

I've been saying that for years. In fact I've probably said it several times here. The net.pedophile hysteria was little different than the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria, with the only real difference being that the underground network of child-abusing Satanic cults was entirely imaginary, while there are such things as pedophiles. Every society and era needs a demon to occupy and distract the credulous, whether it's witches, Communist infiltrators, or pedophiles. In recent history in our Western societies, where the affluent don't have to worry about things like surviving the winter or toiling at backbreaking manual labor, demons are especially effective as they give those with no real problems a manufactured problem to worry about. The biggest demon of turn-of-the-21st-century America was, and probably still will be for a while, pedophiles.

In the near future, people will look at things like "To Catch A Predator" and ignorant fears like "there's this thing on the interweb called MySpace that's like a dating service for pedophiles to kidnap prepubescent upper-middle-class white girls!" with the same amusement with which they look at the McMartin preschool case and old "Satanic Cult"-centered episodes of Geraldo, all the while fretting over whatever demon is popular then. Anyone want to guess what it'll be? Meth seemed like a contender for a while, but that's fizzling out already.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:12 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


A high-profile task force created by 49 state attorneys general to find a solution to the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

You know, that's exactly the sort of thing that a secret pedophile would say.

Guards, seize them!
posted by Avenger at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well I'm glad the heat is finally off my satanic cult.
posted by mullingitover at 2:23 PM on January 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


Well I'm glad the heat is finally off my satanic cult.

[Carl]Shhh..shutuuuup![/Carl]
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Without scapegoats, in whose purifying blood will we bathe our sins?

After the last couple of days, I vote for Comcast employees.

goddamn lagspikes
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


What pdf, FatherDagon?

(In case anyone else asks, I linked to the full pdf version of fandango_matt's "Be Safe and Sane on MetaFilter" parody which was recently revisited in the grey, but my comment was deleted. Apparently I quoted too much nasty language from the comic, or something.)
posted by yhbc at 2:28 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


LOL.
posted by delmoi at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2009


Meth seemed like a contender for a while, but that's fizzling out already.

Not exactly; meth is still a huge issue in many (most?) parts of the US, but the unglamorous deaths of poor people won't sell as much advertising as sensationalized online predators, so the networks don't tend to pick it up.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 2:42 PM on January 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


DecemberBoy: Anyone want to guess what it'll be?

something that mostly affects pretty middle-class white girls.
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


Actually, overlapping, that's never stopped drug panics before (crack, anyone?). They can always find a few middle class white kids to glamorize the story and meth actually has the advantage of actually being favored by white people.

One disadvantage is that it isn't big in New York at all outside of gay men, which means that the media, based here, not seeing much of it aren't as prone to hyping it (though they'll do some). With crack, they actually knew it existed because many had themselves smoked freebase.

But the real problem is that moral panics don't work too well when everyone has something real to worry about like losing their job.
posted by Maias at 3:14 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


“I'm still looking for the 14 year olds who want to bang old retarded men. They seem to be in short supply.”

Seems to be what Blumenthal, et.al. are missing. Kind of enforces itself with the ‘eww’ factor.
Kids are a lot sharper than these people think.

But beyond that, out here in Illinois our AG (who is sharp) went after Craigslist for solicitation of minors. Which was a good step. And stopped there. Which, also, was a good step. There’s only so much you can reasonably do in terms of protection. And indeed, making sure people can’t solicit underage prostitutes in an open blatent manner - pretty good idea.

Push it farther, and you’re starting to get into totalitarianism. Even if there were a larger threat from the ‘man in the bushes’, it’s unfeasible to surveil all internet traffic all the time.
Same ass-backwards way folks want to track down terrorist.
“Dood, R U n2 G4@d?”
Silly.
Much better to encourage reporting the crime by destigmatizing being a victim - in much the same way rape victims got more help (in some areas) and reporting of rape crimes shot way up.
Well, looked for a bit like there were way more assaults on women. But that wasn’t true, it was simply getting reported more which, ultimately, was a better thing than keeping it under wraps and letting the offender get away without even taking a shot at convicting them.

Same deal here. No one wants to believe uncle charley would touch someone so the threat is externalized. Ironically, it’s easier to protect kids from the real threat tho’, than it is to employ this Simpsonesqe ‘Bear patrol’ on the internet.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:27 PM on January 13, 2009


(I’ll add - same deal with seduction of people for terrorist causes as for gang recruitment as for long cons, etc. - no one wants to come forward and admit they were fooled or tricked so it goes on and gets worse and people get trapped.
But eliminate that from your side of the equation, engage folks and make them feel that it’s their right as a community member to be protected from this (and it is) and reaffirm they are members of the community, and voila, you start catching the perpetrators. Of course, all the ‘bad-ass’ rhetoric and toughguy equipment makes people feel cool. But the choice is to do and to be or to seem. I’d rather actually protect a kid from being molested by their uncle or keep them from getting more an more alienated they start to ask why shouldn't they blowed something up, than feel like a bad-ass beating the bushes for monsters.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:33 PM on January 13, 2009


Why does everyone always forget about DC???

Indeed. With fewer Republican congressman in town, the problem suddenly "disappears."
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If only there was some way we could create a panic about squirrels. I'd be happy to go squirrel hunting with a mob because those little fuckers are eating my birdseed like crazy due to the acorn shortage.
posted by zzazazz at 3:49 PM on January 13, 2009


I affected a pretty middle class white girl persona once. It didn't fly.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 3:57 PM on January 13, 2009


I've been saying this to the parents of my middle-school students for years.
posted by Peach at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny timing, this post. I was just watching Frontline's episode, Growing Up Online. In one of the segments, they talked about how the danger of online predators is vastly overstated.
posted by wastelands at 4:24 PM on January 13, 2009


So what's the next big "think of the children" panic?

Non-consensual rectal exam porn.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:31 PM on January 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Great. Now can we reverse the Children's Internet Protection Act, which in some states and districts has "protected" adults from viewing the unspeakable depravity of breast cancer prevention websites?

Many people who use the Internet do not own computers or have high-speed access and so have to use public library computers which are subject to filtering due to CIPA (which kicks in if the library is impoverished enough to require federal funding).
posted by bad grammar at 4:44 PM on January 13, 2009


I don't think we'll see another panic until the real problems get solved. Remember how the media was freaking out about shark attacks right before 9/11?
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on January 13, 2009


Well, I guess I should say until the real problems everyone knows about receded, and the problems most people don't know about haven't yet been noticed by the lazy media.
posted by delmoi at 5:32 PM on January 13, 2009


Non-consensual rectal exam porn.

I'd love to witness a Goatse panic. Imagine Oprah gently preparing her audience of concerned moms for what they're about to see.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:23 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:30 PM on January 13, 2009


something that mostly affects pretty middle-class white girls

Dammit, I was gonna say "me" but then Nick V. beat me to the proverbial punch. So instead:

Remember how the media was freaking out about shark attacks right before 9/11?

No one ever did explain -- to my satisfaction -- why so much chum was found in the basement of 7 World Trade Center, now did they? I've seen enough. Deport all sharks. To a bay somewhere. Maybe Cuba will work?
posted by joe lisboa at 7:32 PM on January 13, 2009


Imagine Oprah gently preparing her audience of concerned moms for what they're about to see.

Relax. WAIT! Don't relax! CLENCH! For the CHILDREN!
posted by joe lisboa at 7:33 PM on January 13, 2009


In case anyone is interested, here's the actual report.

(I tracked it down to see if a friend of mine coauthored it. She did. Cool. To see a preview of the report's results, see her explain My Space to a remarkably calm Bill O'Reilly in 2006.)
posted by alms at 8:05 PM on January 13, 2009


This study just looked at Myspace and Facebook, two reasonably well moderated soical network sites, not the totality of the internet which includes unfiltered and possibly more real threats like sketchy chat rooms and cortex's homepage.

Which is good, because Myspace and Facebook is where the majority of underage people actually are. It's kinda like focusing on making schools safe for kids instead of demanding that everything, including every dark alley, should be kid-safe instead.
posted by ymgve at 9:48 PM on January 13, 2009


Smedleyman: And indeed, making sure people can’t solicit underage prostitutes in an open blatent manner - pretty good idea.

Push it farther, and you’re starting to get into totalitarianism. Even if there were a larger threat from the ‘man in the bushes’, it’s unfeasible to surveil all internet traffic all the time.


There was a 'Wizard of Id" strip some years ago which had a servent running up to the King on one side shouting, "Sire, Sire! The moat monsters are starving to death!" while another one ran up from the other side yelling, "Sire, Sire! The villagers are dying of thirst!, and the King thinks, "I think we can solve this."

We are currently readying Keynesian responses to our dismal, deteriorating economic situation. What better than to employ millions to "surveil" the internet. The hardware need not be espensive, and anybody can do it, from ditchdiggers to financial officers.
posted by carping demon at 10:21 PM on January 13, 2009


Non-consensual rectal exam porn.

Oh, you mean Tuesdays?
posted by Evilspork at 12:38 AM on January 14, 2009


The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was charged with examining the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook...

That breeze you feel is the cumulative sigh of relief from the MSN and Yahoo Messenger crowd. Cam2cam plz?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:19 AM on January 14, 2009


The net.pedophile hysteria was little different than the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria, with the only real difference being that the underground network of child-abusing Satanic cults was entirely imaginary, while there are such things as pedophiles.

Such good comments, DecemberBoy.

Not long before Xmas, I overheard the huge, friendly, 20something counterguy at our local Long Island Stop 'n Shop happily telling a colleague about how he was being groomed to play a chatty pre-teen girl as online bait for pedophiles.

He didn't mention who was doing the "grooming" - could have been some amateur vigilante Fox News fans, I suppose - but he seemed tremendously revved up about the evil 'out there'.

(I know it's hardly a data point, but it made me wonder how many other vulnerable online teens were really burly Stop 'n Shop male counter staff!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:42 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


at the same time, anybody who knows much about this stuff knows that there's more of a threat from family and neighbors

People don't want to know this.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2009


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