Feb 10, 2009

Certain Web sites cracking down on cyber-creeps

by Tim Mattingly

Valentine’s Day has been changed by the increasingly social atmosphere of the Internet. For many singles, Myspace or Facebook surfing is a preferred alternative to venturing out amongst the “twitterpated” in public. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than getting caught in the crossfire of doe-eyed lovers, especially on a day that mocks one’s singleness.

So, on Valentine’s Day, many singles batten down the dorm hatches and lock themselves in their rooms. However, while being protected from the sappy spectacle raging outside their boarded windows, they are subjecting themselves to one of the greatest dangers of our time — the Internet.

Home to everyone and their one-eyed uncle, the World Wide Web provides near limitless possibilities for meeting new people. But it is also prime hunting ground for the festering pustules posed on the underbelly of society — sexual predators.

Recognizing this, Myspace did a little early spring-cleaning. On Feb. 4, the social networking site removed over 90,000 sex offenders, reported the BBC article, “Sex offenders booted from Myspace.” This push to remove predators came just in time for Valentine’s Day.

However, Facebook did not follow suit. Perhaps the site has taken Punxsutawney Phil’s advice and is waiting six more weeks before they do some spring-cleaning of their own. This creates a potential problem for those who seek the refuge of Facebook on Valentine’s Day.

An exodus of 90,000 sex offenders has set out from Myspace and they have to go somewhere. The next logical location is Facebook, if they are not there already.

“Social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal warned in the BBC article.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Facebook has its own “innovative and complex” system for catching sex offenders, reports the same article. Through this “system,” Facebook was able to remove 4,000 sex offenders from its site — only 86,000 more to go.

But do not let these facts discourage Facebook escapism on Valentine’s Day. Besides, potential predators are easily avoided by staying away from unknown people and profiles. And unlike 13-year-olds, college students should possess the IQ to recognize shady situations.

Unfortunately for Taegan Kofeldt of nearby Bedford County, she is 13. The Internet provided a gateway into her life for Andrew Holloway, 21, according to an ABC news article. The two reportedly met over an online Xbox game, planned to rendezvous and then run off to Canada together. The first part of their plan went smoothly, the second — not so much. Holloway is now in police custody.

Despite the age difference, Holloway and Kofeldt apparently shared the same IQ. Due to a slight budgeting oversight and money issues — and by money issues, I mean Holloway did not have any — the runaway lovers were stranded in Bedford County. So, instead of starting a new life in Canada, they settled for the next best thing, which happened to be a patch of woods near Kofeldt’s home.

With the coming of Valentine’s Day, sexual predators are prowling the Internet hunting grounds. And most sex offenders do not turn out to be hare-brained Holloways. After all, it is called the World Wide Web, and what is a web without a cunning spider. Or in this case, 90,000 spiders skittering around in search of a new nest and a tasty treat.

Contact Tim Mattingly at
tmattingly@liberty.edu.


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