A Wired News story tells how 'social computing' can be bad for your parents' health, and it seems that it's our own Rupert Murdoch, that most principled of once-Australian media proprietors, who is now to blame.
Murdoch and his News Corporation last year invested US$500 million-plus in MySpace.com, a US site which ostensibly specialises in forging relationships on the Net between music-crazed American teenagers. Not much wrong with that you might think.
However, as reported, it seems the now-mainstream MySpace is proving itself just as susceptible to predatory sexual interests as have chat rooms and all manner of other online spaces before it. As the Wired story puts it, for parents of teenagers participating in the MySpace experience, "Concerns over the site fall generally into two categories: unease over the type of content teens are posting, and fear of the type of people they're meeting."
These concerns have now even spawned a criminal probe into MySpace's operations by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Bluementhal following reports that a number of underage girls in that state were found to have had consensual sexual relations with adult males they'd met through the site. And, it seems, there has emerged a host of mirror prosecutions against males across the USA accused of molesting minors they too have met through the site.
True, graphically chaotic and definitively adult-hostile, it seems that MySpace is just the sort of channel for the venting of teenage hormonal urges about which parents might most rightly be concerned. But there's also little new about its provenance ‑ haven't adults the civilised world over been making such statements about the Murdoch media for at least thirty years?
But, in the world of Rupert, such controversy can only be good for business. Given his track record of trawling the bottom and coming up trumps each time, it seems that if nothing else, Murdoch, ever true to his audiences' most basic urges and to finding new ways of tapping into them, will ensure that this form of 'social computing' is here to stay.