MySpace To Get Safety Czar
Advertisers are hitting News Corp. where it hurts by looking for escape clauses in their MySpace contracts. As negative press mounts for the phenomenally successful young blogger website over an apparent rash of sexual predation, News Corp. plans to appoint a “safety czar” to help assuage the fears of parents and educators.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 50 plus-million member website, MySpace.com, was the eighth most visited domain in 2005. Nearly a fifth of MySpace’s membership is under 17 years old.
Parents hadn’t really noticed the popular Internet hangout until they kept hearing reports from city after city that underage girls were being assaulted by men, many of whom had lied about their ages, they had met at MySpace.
The appeal of MySpace to teen bloggers was that it is largely unmonitored and youngsters are free to express themselves without fear of censorship. While nudity and pornographic content is not allowed, explicit and semi-nude material is easy to find.
Playboy magazine didn’t miss a beat in noticing the young modeling potential and has launched a casting call by setting up its own profile page to recruit for a future “Girls of MySpace” issue. Though MySpace says it doesn’t endorse or participate with Playboy recruiting, the site has accepted advertising money from Playboy and the publicity won for the site is no doubt attractive.
That type of publicity, though, where an adult magazine recruits from within, may not be exactly what News Corp. wants, especially if it drives away ad dollars elsewhere. Advertisers like Universal McCann and Omnicom Group have been looking for an earlier way out of their contracts after the predation concern.
MySpace says it has removed about 200,000 users as a result of them lying about their age and manually checks all photos uploaded. But there has been enough concern voiced for parents and government agencies demand the site go further to protect minors.
The proposed Safety Czar is presumably one of the company’s new measures though it is unclear what the czar’s responsibilities will entail.
Until then, it is heavily encouraged that parents go over tips for safe blogging like never revealing personally identifiable or locatable information and only allowing access to their blog from people they know.