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MySpace Gets False Positive In Sex Offender Search 345

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-if-but-when dept.
gbulmash writes "In its eagerness to clear sex offenders off its site and publish their identities, MySpace identified an innocent woman as a sex offender. She shares a name and birth month with a sex offender who lives in a neighboring state and that was apparently enough to get MySpace to wrongly brand her and completely ignore her protests."
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MySpace Gets False Positive In Sex Offender Search

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:35PM (#19323329)
    ...that MySpace isn't the government, and this woman is still "innocent", and is, in fact, not a sex offender, regardless of whether MySpace's own internal processes "identified" her as one.

    It's amusing to me that the summary tosses around words like "wrongly brand", when MySpace hasn't "branded" - which implies a public, overt identification - anyone as anything. And even if the woman's friends ask why her profile is gone, it's not as if they're going to accidentally and arbitrarily believe she really is a sex offender.

    Since the only mechanism via which MySpace can identify possible sex offenders registered on the site is comparison of items such as name, locale, DOB (for which many public lists, even of sex offenders, only use the month), etc., is this surprising? That someone with the same name, same birth month (which might have been all the matching information they had), and same location, which is pretty much all the information they have, could be seen as a match?

    Is it further surprising that MySpace doesn't yet have a reasonable mechanism to deal with improper identifications as yet? Sure, maybe they should, but from their perspective, it's more important for them to respond to the requests to get people who are obviously sex offenders registered with their real information off the site. Since MySpace isn't a court or the government, the whole "better to let a hundred guilty men free than jail one innocent man" doesn't apply in the least. (Unless, of course, you think having MySpace removed from your life is a significant "punishment".)

    No one has a right to a MySpace profile, MySpace isn't the government, and hasn't identified, much less "branded", the woman in any public fashion as a sex offender.

    This of course ignores that sex offenders/pedophiles/etc. can clearly register under bogus names, addresses, and so on. On the other hand, is it a good idea to let registered sex offenders (arguments about an 18 year old with his 16 year old high school sweetheart getting tagged as a "registered sex offender" aside) who are registered with their real information remain on a site like MySpace? And just because "they can come back and register with false information," is that any reason to let persons who have registered with their real information stay? Sure, the mechanism for identifying such people may be imperfect, but again, repeat after me: MySpace is NOT the government, even if it was acting under pressure from various states/municipalities/etc.

    But people do need to recognize that all a sex offender has to do is register with a false name and nothing more, and MySpace will not be able to identify them at all. However, MySpace can still say it has still done all it can reasonably do in response to the various demands to "remove" sex offenders from the site. MySpace's own business interests in this arena trump an exceedingly small number of individuals from possibly getting improperly flagged.
    • by purduephotog (218304) <{hirsch} {at} {inorbit.com}> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:43PM (#19323459) Homepage Journal
      This is very well written and I agree with every statement.

      While I can't read the article, there should be a mechanism for her account to be re-instated- a 'white listing' that proves she has been validated. As was said, no one has a 'right' to a myspace profile. Those that say "Free Speech" mis understand the intended purpose- the Government can not Censor a Newspaper... not whether or not a company can let you post (baring discrimination based upon gender, race, orientation, ability, or intelligence).

      I share the same name as a debtor, his calls come to my house. I have a 3" thick file on him. The government can do nothing to protect me, and there are no laws on the books to stop them from harassing me. Today's a good day- I can make light of it. Catch me on a bad day and I'll be in a foul mood for a week after one of their harassing phone calls.

      In the end she'll work it out, I'm sure- if all else the press generated will pressure the company to reinstate the profile. Which is as the system should be.
      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:54PM (#19323641) Homepage Journal
        "Those that say "Free Speech" mis understand the intended purpose- the Government can not Censor a Newspaper... not whether or not a company can let you post (baring discrimination based upon gender, race, orientation, ability, or intelligence).

        I share the same name as a debtor, his calls come to my house. I have a 3" thick file on him. The government can do nothing to protect me, and there are no laws on the books to stop them from harassing me. Today's a good day- I can make light of it. Catch me on a bad day and I'll be in a foul mood for a week after one of their harassing phone calls.

        In the end she'll work it out, I'm sure- if all else the press generated will pressure the company to reinstate the profile. Which is as the system should be."

        The thing I would wonder about...what all other 'databases' are now being filled with information from MySpace? I'd bet you 10 to nothing this lady now turns up as a sex offender on other systems....other systems that may NOT get their data corrected.

        Isn't that nice? It would be a shame for this inacurate information to catch up to her in the future, denying her a job, a clearance, a loan...raise her insurance rates...all those nice things that bad data can do to you these days.

        I guarantee you ...the info pulled off MySpace indentifying predators...it also being distributed to at least a few police, state and fed systems. Of course you have nothing to fear if you are innocent? Try telling that to her in the future..when she gets mis-identified again due to data from this data pull....hell, she might not even know she's been turned down for something due to this...no one says they have to tell you why.

        • by rblancarte (213492) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:35PM (#19324293) Homepage
          Again, read the GP post. This woman was identified/branded/labeled as nothing.

          The fact is, they did a very lousy job of cross referencing their sex offender DB and got a bad match. The fact is that a real search would actually result in a true positive.

          NOW, what this does demonstrate is the lack of effort being put forth by MySpace in their "efforts" to identify sex offenders. This false positive really demonstrates that they are not doing a lot to really validate their lists. Along with the point of the GGP post where they state it is a simple matter for a registered sex offender to use false information on their MySpace registration.

          RonB
          • by MeanderingMind (884641) * on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:24PM (#19325011) Homepage Journal

            This woman was identified/branded/labeled as nothing.


            This isn't an accurate statement. From a government standpoint, she hasn't been labeled anything. That is correct. However, this is not an issue of government at all.

            When I am in high school and called a "nerd" I am identified, branded or labeled as such. It doesn't matter that the administration of the school doesn't recognize that my name now hashes to a pool of "nerds". What matters is that other people have labeled me, rightly or wrongly.

            Similarly, if MySpace labels someone a sex offender the government's official registry is largely irrelevant to the fact that within the bounds of MySpace that person is now "branded" a sex offender. In legal terms, they're completely innocent and need not worry about being in some government database as one. In realistic terms they're baffled/confused/shocked/traumatized to discover that they've been labeled something they are not.

            Don't underestimate the power of "unofficial" labels, brands, or identifications.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by randyflood (183756)

              Well, it depends on exactly what Myspace tells the person when they delete their profile. If Myspace states that they are removing their account because they are a sex offender, then the person might be able to sue for Libel.

              There was a case one time where someone was fired because their employer thought that they were guilty of stealing. So, anyway, when they went to interview for other jobs, they were asked why they left the previous company. They said it was because they were accused of stealing. The
        • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:31PM (#19325125)
          The thing I would wonder about...what all other 'databases' are now being filled with information from MySpace? I'd bet you 10 to nothing this lady now turns up as a sex offender on other systems....other systems that may NOT get their data corrected.

          No. She cannot and will not be added to any sex offender lists or any other governmentally maintained lists because of this. She is not a sex offender.

          Isn't that nice? It would be a shame for this inacurate information to catch up to her in the future, denying her a job, a clearance, a loan...raise her insurance rates...all those nice things that bad data can do to you these days.

          Except it won't, because she is not a sex offender. And you know what? Some searches for things like mortgages, background checks, due diligence legal searches, and so on, are (intentionally) overly broad and do get "false positives". But the difference is they don't just assume you're that person; if you're not that person, you're simply not, and you are given the opporunity to show it. This is routine and happens thousands of times a day for employment, divorce proceedings, security clerance investigations, credit checks, and so on. MySpace doesn't really care, apparently, if it purges a few people who aren't really sex offenders. But it's not the reverse that's happening

          I guarantee you ...the info pulled off MySpace indentifying predators...it also being distributed to at least a few police, state and fed systems. Of course you have nothing to fear if you are innocent? Try telling that to her in the future..when she gets mis-identified again due to data from this data pull....hell, she might not even know she's been turned down for something due to this...no one says they have to tell you why.

          Um...huh? You actually believe that police records and sex offender lists and government databases are going to be changed on the basis of MySpace's garbage matching...using sex offender lists in the first place? (Not only will this not happen, at all, do you see the error in your logic here? MySpace isn't "identifying" sex offenders. They're letting the people who pressured them know that they removed people who they THINK to be sex offenders based on its processes, to show that it is doing something; not that these people ARE sex offenders.) She CANNOT and WILL NOT have ANY negative entries in any databases or law enforcement records, because she HAS NOT committed any crime, and IS NOT a sex offender, no matter what MySpace says or does. Why does no one here understand that, and why are they all getting modded up? Repeat: MySpace has NO POWER to suddenly make people appear as sex offenders or criminals in ANY database, ANYWHERE.

          That doesn't mean what MySpace is doing is right or even productive. But it also doesn't change the accuracy of anything I said above.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Actually, I believe there are laws about creditors harassing people, you should only have to notify them, and provide proof that you are not the individual they are looking for, if they continue, you can take legal action against them. Is it worth the money, probably not as the lawyer fees will probably be sky high...

        As for the article, although the user wants her myspace account back, I believe the bigger picture is that myspace is going to share the database of sex offenders (or those they atleast thing
        • by ptbarnett (159784)
          Actually, I believe there are laws about creditors harassing people, you should only have to notify them, and provide proof that you are not the individual they are looking for, if they continue, you can take legal action against them.

          The GP didn't say explicitly, but the problem is that the laws protecting delinquent debtors from harassment by creditors only protects the delinquent debtor. They don't address the situation in which someone is mistaken as the delinquent debtor.

          However, most states have

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ptbarnett (159784)
        I share the same name as a debtor, his calls come to my house. I have a 3" thick file on him. The government can do nothing to protect me, and there are no laws on the books to stop them from harassing me.

        Yes, there is. You just have to dig a little deeper.

        I had a similar problem: my name was the same as a guy that was married to a delinquent debtor, and I would get calls from collection agencies trying to find her. When I made the mistake of talking to one of them to try to correct their error, the

      • Those that say "Free Speech" mis understand the intended purpose- the Government can not Censor a Newspaper

        This is, itself, a classic misunderstanding. Free speech is a natural right; the Constitution only prevents the government from infringing on it*, true enough, but this does not mean that when any other body prevents you from speaking, they are not infringing on your rights. Corporate censorship is still censorship. You just don't have as much legal recourse.

        *Theoretically. In practice, of course,
    • by Chr0me (180627) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:52PM (#19323607)

      Since the only mechanism via which MySpace can identify possible sex offenders registered on the site is comparison of items such as name, locale, DOB (for which many public lists, even of sex offenders, only use the month), etc., is this surprising? That someone with the same name, same birth month (which might have been all the matching information they had), and same location, which is pretty much all the information they have, could be seen as a match?
      Considering that there are probably a lot of people named "John Smith" born in June a name and month match would be highly likely. You glossed over the fact the the DOBs for these two women were two years apart. And a human decided that a 22 - 26 month difference was "close enough."

      You also ignore that the register sex offender was registered in Utah and that the woman whose page was taken down lived in Colorado and Florida previously, but not in Utah. so your same place argument falls too.

      Did you RTFA before spouting off? Oh wait /., I forgot where i was.
      • You also ignore that the register sex offender was registered in Utah and that the woman whose page was taken down lived in Colorado and Florida previously, but not in Utah. so your same place argument falls too.

        I'm sending you back to 6th grade geography class! Or at least to Google Maps [google.com]. Utah and Colorado are right next to each other on the map. Its certainly possible and even likely that someone living in Colorado might relocate to Utah or vice versa without having to switch jobs or lose contact with f

    • Since the only mechanism via which MySpace can identify possible sex offenders registered on the site is comparison of items such as name, locale, DOB (for which many public lists, even of sex offenders, only use the month), etc., is this surprising?

      Actually, since all humans are "possible sex offenders", MySpace should simply not let anyone use there service if they want to avoid "possible sex offenders".

      What MySpace can identify with the information you describe is "People who provide information similar

    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:54PM (#19323631)

      It's amusing to me that the summary tosses around words like "wrongly brand", when MySpace hasn't "branded" - which implies a public, overt identification - anyone as anything. And even if the woman's friends ask why her profile is gone, it's not as if they're going to accidentally and arbitrarily believe she really is a sex offender.

      Actually, this is not quite as innocuous as you seem to imply. If a myspace profile is suddenly gone and people know MySpace is removing known sex offenders, it is entirely possible they will assume she is a sex offender, especially if they search for her name and find info that seems to imply that. Worse, they may well make comments to that affect on their own pages, seeding Google with further slander. People tend to believe authorities and in this case, they may well assume MySpace has better resources to identify sex offenders than they do.

      Just this morning I was talking to someone whose co-worker has a hard time getting jobs because if you do a Google search for his name, the first things that come up are articles about him being accused of being a rapist. Even though he was exonerated and some of the articles do mention that at the bottom in small text, it has still had significant negative impacts on his life.

      No one has a right to a MySpace profile, MySpace isn't the government, and hasn't identified, much less "branded", the woman in any public fashion as a sex offender.

      True, but the fact that they are falsely identifying people is very good information to know. The fact that they don't have a good policy for fixing their mistakes is good to know. It gives users one more reason to move on to a more responsible site before they've invested more effort into that social network.

      MySpace is clearly acting to deceive the public. They're intentionally taking actions they know will be ineffective at solving the problem in an attempt to trick users into thinking they have made real progress. At the same time they're misidentifying innocent people and not properly dealing with that problem. Basically they are being a big evil business. If being purchased by Fox news was not enough reason, this is just one more reason to distrust and avoid MySpace and that is news everyone should be hearing so they can decide for themselves.

      • by HikingStick (878216) <z01riemer@hDEGASotmail.com minus painter> on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:26PM (#19324165)
        Just a clarification...If spoken, it's slander. If printed, it's libel. Also, a key component of libel is that it is published, not merely privately disclosed. If only the user got the notification as to why her page was removed, there is no case for libel. If they placed a warning on her former page that said "this user's page was removed because s/he was a registered sex offender", then the case would be clear.

        At the same time, however (and if memory serves correctly), libel cases have been rare in recent years and have not had great success at trial.
      • "If a myspace profile is suddenly gone and people know MySpace is removing known sex offenders, it is entirely possible they will assume she is a sex offender"

        There are plenty of reasons why MySpace will remove a porfile. It's not MySpace's fault if people makes incorrect presumptions as to why a particular profile was deleted. But let's suppose MySpace IS in fact in the wrong here...

        "Just this morning I was talking to someone whose co-worker has a hard time getting jobs because if you do a Google search
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Does that mean that Google is in the wrong as well? Should they pre-emptively strike content that may prove damaging to someone down the road?

          Google acts impartially, not claiming to be censoring or classifying sex offender information. As such, they bear no responsibility for that content. The responsibility belongs to the people writing and publishing it.

          Ahh, now we know the angle you're taking on this. Not that News Corp. (let alone their subsidiary Fox News) has anything to do with this, but I suppose nothing fetches karma like bashing Slashdot's favorite pariahs.

          I bash Fox news and news corp at every opportunity because they deserve it. They went to court and argued that they have no responsibility to not intentionally lie to viewers, which is true, but it also makes them deserving of that fact being pointed out every time they claim to be news or

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kabocox (199019)
        MySpace is clearly acting to deceive the public. They're intentionally taking actions they know will be ineffective at solving the problem in an attempt to trick users into thinking they have made real progress. At the same time they're misidentifying innocent people and not properly dealing with that problem..

        All MySpace has to work is the information that the government releases for known sexoffenders, which is usually name, dob, sometimes height/weight and hair and eye color and sometimes current address
    • by geekoid (135745)
      "it's not as if they're going to accidentally and arbitrarily believe she really is a sex offender."
      What about future employers that do a back ground check? now that MySpace has reported her to the authorities she will not get passed a background check.

      "Since the only mechanism via which MySpace can identify possible sex offenders registered on the site is comparison of items such as name, locale, DOB (for which many public lists, even of sex offenders, only use the month), etc., is this surprising?"

      No, and
      • What about future employers that do a back ground check? now that MySpace has reported her to the authorities she will not get passed a background check.

        Wrong. She's not a sex offender, and not even suspected of being one, by any governmental entity at any level. So yeah, she'll get past every background check just fine. And, frankly, probably easier due to NOT having a MySpace profile...

        no, not surprising, but wrong. Just as wrong as false hits on any terrorist list needs a way for removal....wait, that ne
      • "it's not as if they're going to accidentally and arbitrarily believe she really is a sex offender."

        What about future employers that do a back ground check? now that MySpace has reported her to the authorities she will not get passed a background check.

        Great post. It would be a lot clearer though if you used "quote" tags though. Just to keep this comment on topic: MySpace, or any other entity should use due diligence before shutting anybody down as a sex offender. That is one of those NASTY things that will haunt people, even if it's not true. Take the NAME OMITTED/gerbil rumor for example. I don't know if it's true or not--I tend to think it's false, which is why I don't want to put the person's name down here, though I'm sure somebody will be able to n

      • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:36PM (#19324309)

        Maybe someone needs to be..oh I don't know..tried before a judge and their peers before being branded guilty of a crime? I just thinking off the wall here...
        That thar sounds like terrorist talk to me! Why do you hate America so much?
    • You're right, nobody has a right to a MySpace account and it's not provided or vetted by the government.

      But.

      There's an alarming trend in this country to "outsource" legitimate government functions and then deny lawful access under the color of claiming "it's just a private company". Courts will often rule against them -- if it's done on behalf of the government then it's subject to the same restrictions as if it were done by the government itself -- but that takes time and money to pursue. And it's defini
    • I thought that MySpace was telling governmental authorities about sex offenders signing up with their service--because of all the people under 17 signed up. If so, this could lead to "branding" of sex offenders. If there were no false positives, it would just reinforce the branding that was already there, but a false positive like this would put a new, wrong brand on.
    • > It's amusing to me that the summary tosses around words like "wrongly brand", when MySpace hasn't "branded" - which implies a public, overt identification - anyone as anything. And even if the woman's friends ask why her profile is gone, it's not as if they're going to accidentally and arbitrarily believe she really is a sex offender.

      Your optimism that "wrongly branded" individuals such as this woman will not be publicly harmed from this is touching. While her own efforts to clear her name have lea

      • Her friends may not believe she is a sex offender, but potential future employers may not be so charitable. I have zero confidence that lists such as this will not enter the public domain.

        Sex offender registries are governmentally maintained and public. You either are a sex offender, or you aren't. What MySpace's loose internal processes think are irrelevant. I'm not sure what kinds of databases people think this might get into (because it's certainly NOT sex offender registries, as you have to, well, actua
    • Just wait... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Sooner or later you'll have to prove your innocence after some social networking site identified you as sex offender or terrorist. After all, they have all the social networking data, so they should know...
    • by deacon (40533)
      "It's amusing to me that the summary tosses around words like "wrongly brand", when MySpace hasn't "branded" - which implies a public, overt identification - anyone as anything."

      What is more amusing is that you have not bothered to read TFA, which says:

      "But what if MySpace falsely labeled you as sex offender, had your profile and your page taken down, had your name and information included in the database of sex offenders, and which was distributed to several Attorney Generals? I hope what happened to Jessi
      • What is more amusing is that you have not bothered to read TFA, which says:

        No, I did read it, thanks.

        "But what if MySpace falsely labeled you as sex offender, had your profile and your page taken down, had your name and information included in the database of sex offenders, and which was distributed to several Attorney Generals? I hope what happened to Jessica Davis will never happen to you."

        That's the problem with Witch Hunts: You end up burning the wrong people.


        Except that she is provably not a sex offend
    • Just to play devil's advocate: Unless we run a background check on the one who claims to be innocent, who can you be sure she is not a sex offender?

      I'm not supporting MySpace's actions (either the handing-over of records, or the false positives that are bound to happen), but unless we are dealing with a registration/authentication process that requires a criminal background check, anyone can claim innocence.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      MySpace isn't the government, and this woman is still "innocent", and is, in fact, not a sex offender, regardless of whether MySpace's own internal processes "identified" her as one.

      As TFA points out, MySpace provides list of users whose accounts it deletes for such reasons to law enforcement. It's very unlikely that the Colorado AG's office had Ms. Davis listed as a sex offender since the offenses were committed by a different person in other states; now, quite possibly now it does.

      Since the only mechanis
      • As TFA points out, MySpace provides list of users whose accounts it deletes for such reasons to law enforcement. It's very unlikely that the Colorado AG's office had Ms. Davis listed as a sex offender since the offenses were committed by a different person in other states; now, quite possibly now it does.

        No. She is provably not a sex offender. Period.

        She cannot be added to governmentally-maintained sex offender registries when she is not a sex offender.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jedidiah (1196)
      No, this woman is infact being branded. She's being associated with some very heinous criminal activity solely based on identity matching technology which is KNOWN to be crap. This is slander and this slander is being passed onto law enforcement where official harrassment by the state is likely to ensue.

      These sorts of associations are nothing to trifle with.
      • No, this woman is infact being branded. She's being associated with some very heinous criminal activity solely based on identity matching technology which is KNOWN to be crap. This is slander and this slander is being passed onto law enforcement where official harrassment by the state is likely to ensue.

        No. She is provably not a sex offender, and nothing MySpace says or does makes her one, and cannot add her to any governmentally-maintained sex offender registries (the only kind there are), or result in "ha
        • Wow... eight posts from you in the span of less than one hour, during normal working hours... perhaps you should be spending some of this time on Monster.com?

          • Thanks for the advice! Amazingly, some people aren't required to work during any particular set times, and yet still complete all of the work they are obligated to do in the timeframes expected. We can't all be like France, I guess!
  • Big company comes up with big brother type plan. Said plan is flawed and screws their customer. Company doesn't care. I am unsurprised. The only surprising part is that the government wasn't involved somehow.
  • Are you surprised? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:40PM (#19323393) Homepage
    Are you surprised? I for one can say that I'm not at all surprised. Stuff like this is bound to happen. It's the reason why MySpace should take a stance that their site is an open forum, and they do not control what goes on there. Otherwise, if Myspace starts saying they are sex-offender-free, and then some still slip by, they are in for a huge lawsuit.
  • IANAL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ukpyr (53793) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:41PM (#19323419)
    but isn't that pretty clear slander?

    It would be nice to be able to read the article : )

    As someone said in another post, myspace is SOOO 2004 so the whole thing is, if not boring, inane.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nimey (114278)
      Libel. Slander is spoken, libel is written.
    • by XaXXon (202882)
      I don't know if there's been any slander, but it's definitely libel. It's 'written' in a database somewhere and in the email she received.
      • by Aladrin (926209)
        I'm guessing YANAL, either. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure to commit libel, you have to actually tell it to someone OTHER than the person involved.

        http://www.medialaw.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Pub lic_Resources/Libel_FAQs/Libel_FAQs.htm [medialaw.org]
        "Libel and slander are legal claims for false statements of fact about a person that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others."
        "The statement(s) alleged to be defamatory must also have been published to at least one other person (other than the subject
        • by XaXXon (202882)
          The company that runs the database 'told' myspace this lady was a sex offender via a 'written' document. It was acted upon showing a belief in the 'document'.

          I put all the words in quotes because I believe this to be libel and not slander, even though the 'written-ness' of the falsehood is questionable.
    • by srobert (4099)
      Kaching! Get me Alan Shore.
    • You sure aren't a lawyer. It's libel.
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)
      If the woman wanted to truly make a mockery of MySpace, she could certainly file a libel suit. For her to have been identified, more than one person was probably involved in the process of running the comparison report. Multiple people now think she is a sex offender, and it is documented.

      Sue, baby, sue! Bring 'em to their knees!
  • by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:41PM (#19323429)

    Sentinel CEO John Cardillo told ABC News that the system functioned properly, because an actual sex offender existed with the same name, and a date of birth two years and two days apart from Davis.
    I wonder how many Johbn Cardillo's exist in the sex offender databases. And I wonder how many kinda sorta have a similar birthday?
    • Clearly, here, the system correctly implemented its design.

      The problem is that the design is fundamentally flawed.
    • by pclminion (145572)

      Damn. It would be pretty depressing if, for ANY given name, there is a sex offender somewhere with that name.

      Anyway, I find the whole idea of registering sex offenders to be ridiculous -- as if their crime is somehow worse than ANY other crime. It's despicable, but murder is worse, and we don't have "murderer registries."

    • by Alsee (515537)
      I wonder how many Johbn Cardillo's exist in the sex offender databases.

      Zero.

      Which just shows how silly the whole thing is.

      -
  • by LineGrunt (133002) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:42PM (#19323441)
    "If you haven't done anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?"

  • The Question is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:46PM (#19323501)
    This real question is: Do you have a right to use MySpace? Are they required to give you access if not violating, or even in spite of, any anti-discrimination or other laws?

    MySpace is not a public monopoly who is required to serve everybody equally in return for that monopoly status. Some people think that a Driver's License is their Constitutional right. It isn't. And while it hurts MySpace to deny users when they want to control this entire space themselves, how much federal law can apply to a private venture trying to make a profit? At what point are you pwned by said federal government?

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      She was not complainging about being told no she can't use My Space.

      She was quite clear that she was concerned about them telling other people she was a sex offender, as they had already told her she was one.

      Such an event, if it happened, is a crime, called SLANDER.

      Such an event is in fact what certain states are attempting to do (i.e. get MySpace to report 'sex offenders to them)

      So you entirely missed the "real questions", which are in fact: Did MySpace commit a vicious crime, violating the rights of

      • by Dunbal (464142)
        Such an event, if it happened, is a crime, called SLANDER.

        A few points - and I'm not even a lawyer:

        Slander is not a crime. It's a civil issue. Perhaps you should work for the MAFIAA they brayed hard enough to get copyright infringement turned into a "crime". But no one goes to jail for slander.

        Also - slander is only slander if it involves someone else. If I tell you you are an asshole, there's nothing you can do about it. Even if you're not a
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      MySpace is a service and as such they have terms of service and just about every TOS under the sun has a clause saying "we reserve the right to dump you at any time for any reason." You don't necessarily have a "right" to use MySpace, anymore than you have a "right" to use Mobil or Starbucks. If they choose to exclude you for whatever reason, your only recourse is legal action. Mind you, they can refuse you service, but they can't necessarily get away with publicly slandering/defaming you, and they certainl

    • If you take away their access it's one thing, but if you publically post that this person is a sex offender, that's got nothing to do with "private corporations." That amounts to libel. Myspace screwed up. They made this public domain by publically announcing her as a sex offender. Therefore it does fall under the domain of US law and she can take action appropriately. She doesn't have to get her site back, but she sure as hell can sue for damages and ask for a retraction and apology.
  • myspace (Score:5, Funny)

    by flynt (248848) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:48PM (#19323553)
    Doesn't having a MySpace account make you a suspected sex offender, ipso facto?
  • how to find out if anyone with a similar name/address/age/etc. is on the sex offender list? Perhaps a stupid question, but it would be good to post such information here
    • Easy, apply for a job involved in education. When you find yourself arrested at five am and locked up without Habeus Corpus then you know that you have sufficient similarities to a sex offender to be arrested 'for the sake of the children'.

      Please note that 'sex offender' includes the sixteen year old who makes love to his fifteen year old girlfriend and gets found out.
    • Create a 'Myspace' page and let them do all the work.
  • by Jerry (6400)
    Money is the ONLY thing they understand.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:52PM (#19323613) Homepage

    This needs to be expanded to include domestic violence offenders. That would be really valuable for dating sites.

  • by xtermz (234073) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @12:55PM (#19323653) Homepage Journal
    MySpace does no sort of valid name, age, or date of birth verification. Hell you can go on there now with an existing profile and change your last name as many times as you wish. Mine is Weibowitz, at least as far as myspace is concerned. I just did that to keep annoying spam bots from bugging me.

    Regardless, if a boogie man wants to sign up for myspace and go about doing some e-Stalking, this exercise in "security" theater won't stop them. I suspect myspace even probably knows this and is just going through the measures to shut the states AG's up.
    • Regardless, if a boogie man wants to sign up for myspace and go about doing some e-Stalking, this exercise in "security" theater won't stop them.


      Its not meant to. Its meant to make people feel safe about MySpace.

  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:00PM (#19323751) Journal
    Now be honest, how many people saw "MySpace," "woman," and "sex" and clicked the link right away?
  • "...and that was apparently enough to get MySpace to wrongly brand her and completely ignore her protests."

    Homeland Security holds a patent on that algorithm - Someone alert their lawyers!
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:14PM (#19323945)
    Imagine they would have identified a man. Aside of sexism, imagine would would go down if that was a guy. Imagine a guy who created a profile and, to make matters worse, imagine he had an interest in computer games, "modern" music or other activities usually associated with teenagers, and if he even had a few teenagers in his friends group (or whatever it's called in MySpace).

    Think he could've escaped the witchhunt?
  • by johnny cashed (590023) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @01:15PM (#19323973) Homepage
    I know this may not be a popular stance, but once a sex offender has served their time (probation and all) can we dispense with the whole sex offender registration bullshit? If we can't live with the fact that these people are released from prison, then the whole system is flawed.

    And can we please get our sex offender laws in a state in which we can not prosecute kids who sleep with other kids (i.e. 18 year olds and 16 year olds having sex). Personally, I'm tired of the whole sex offender "bogieman". It has gotten to the point where the term gets associated with the worst kinda behavior. Maybe I'm just biased because I've never been "sex offended" but I can't help but think that their are degrees of sex offense, and our system just seems to lump them all together, to the point of hyperbole. As a result, I believe that the whole term "sex offender" is becoming watered down to the point of it being worthless as a metric to judge whether a person is a real threat.

    Why stop there? Lets make drug offenders register as well.

    Let us think of some possible scenarios: random rape, date rate, child rape, child molestation, groping, lewd conduct, public nudity. Of these, which ones do you consider serious? Do you believe they should all be grouped as sex offenses? I don't even know if they are all considered sex offenses, I tried to look it up to determine if my list was valid, but in the short time I looked on google for sex offenses, all I got were sex offender registry links, so I can't even look up to determine what constitutes a sex offense.

    The other problem is when people get falsely accused of a sex offense. When you have 2 people, one says they did something, and the other denies it, how do you determine who is correct, provided there is a lack of specific evidence? Kids have been known to falsely accuse. Adults have been known to falsely accuse. The whole matter has gotten out of hand.
    • I agree wholeheartedly.

      Murder a few people, go to jail, come out, you're fine. You've done your time.

      Why are sex offenses so much worse than murder? What about assault? Why is it just sex that's so horrifying?
    • Sex offenders, let me narrow my argument to child predators, are far different from other criminals. Most other criminals typically get tired of cycling through jail, get bored with crime and mature, kick the drug habits that put them there, etc. Child predators are for whatever reason programmed to be attracted to kids, who are weak and naive. NO ONE wants one living next door. If I had kids and one moved in next to me, I'd bet I'd do whatever it took (short of murder or assault) to get rid of him. Fa
      • "Most other criminals typically get tired of cycling through jail, get bored with crime and mature, kick the drug habits that put them there, etc."
        ROTFL ... you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.
    • Let us think of some possible scenarios: random rape, date rate, child rape, child molestation, groping, lewd conduct, public nudity. Of these, which ones do you consider serious? Do you believe they should all be grouped as sex offenses? I don't even know if they are all considered sex offenses, I tried to look it up to determine if my list was valid, but in the short time I looked on google for sex offenses, all I got were sex offender registry links, so I can't even look up to determine what constitutes

    • No, you are getting this all wrong.

      We need more scare, more laws, more punishment, life-time registration and all that.

      Because, you see, the really, really evil thing is that these people are sex offenders. Got it? It's sex for christ's sake, or better not for his sake because we need to think of the chiiildren. And we have to make sex illegal. Since we can't do that (hey, we've tried for 2000 years, for some reason it just doesn't stick) at least let us turn as much of it into a taboo as possible. The ter
  • All those jews should be listed where we know who they are.
    All those communists should be listed where we know who they are.
    All those terrorists should be listed where we know who they are.
    All those sex offenders should be listed where we know who they are.

    Each step, is one step closer to fascism.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @02:42PM (#19325309) Homepage Journal
    Try explaining to your boss how you're not really a sex offender even though "The computer says you are one." Sometimes I think your perfect Libertarian paradise here sounds a little bit like a scene from Hell in the Twilight Zone.
  • Major malfunction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @03:30PM (#19326011) Homepage

    By Thursday, Sentinel, the company that built the database for MySpace has acknowledged the error. Sentinel CEO John Cardillo told ABC News that the system functioned properly, because an actual sex offender existed with the same name, and a date of birth two years and two days apart from Davis'.

    Excuse me ... that is not functioning properly at all. That is a major malfunction, caused either by a bad design or an error in programming. Merely having the same name absolutely cannot be used for this kind of matching, even if the birthdates matched exactly (which they did not).

    That is on top of MySpace's utter failure to actually do any real investigation when they were informed that an error had taken place. So they compounded the error with a lie, and can no longer just blame it all on Sentinel.

  • Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unlametheweak (1102159) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @06:52PM (#19329481)
    Some issues:

    Q: Should sex offenders continue to be punished after they have served there sentences?
    A: Probably not. It doesn't help them adjust to society and may cause more harm than good. If they are dangerous, then just keep them in jail. Companies should not encourage bad behavior.

    Q: Can Web site owners accurately determine who is a sex offender?
    A: If the sex offender gave accurate information when signing up, then probably most of the time. Otherwise these private policing policies are just marketing hype.

    Q: Aren't Sex offenders too dangerous to be taken lightly?
    A: It's all about FUD and marketing. There is no one standard definition of sex offender, and laws differ within states and countries. The peeing-in-the-park sex offender is but one example. I'm sure there are people who would like Bill Clinton labeled as a sex offender.

    Q: Can't private sites do what they want?
    A: Pretty much. I (and other's here) are just pointing out how stupid these large companies can be. It's another example of (apparently) uneducated business people and politicians taking a rather complicated social issue and offering simple-minded solutions.

    Q: So what can be done?
    A: Stay smart and keep educated, and pass this knowledge onto your children. If you can't rely on yourself, then don't expect easy solutions from other people.
  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Wednesday May 30, 2007 @08:30PM (#19330625) Homepage Journal
    Apperently, I grew up next door to a child molester.

    However, I didn't know this until I was an adult. He apperently molested 30-40 boys in the neighborhood, but not me.

    I was right next door, but I was never chosen, what was wrong with me? Why didn't he choose me? being neglected was a heavy blow to my self esteem.

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