I’m very proud to announce that my article “To Catch a Predator? The MySpace Moral Panic” has been published by First Monday in their June 2008 issue.
This article discusses the panic over “online predators” on MySpace and how it’s not based on fact. I analyze media coverage of the cyberporn panic of 1996 and its links to internet content legislation, and compare this to the current hysteria around MySpace. My conclusion: there is no problem with online predators, the real problems of child abuse and child pornography are ignored by the proposed legislation, and the panic worries parents and restricts teenagers unnecessarily.
This paper examines moral panics over contemporary technology, or “technopanics.” I use the cyberporn panic of 1996 and the contemporary panic over online predators and MySpace to demonstrate links between media coverage and content legislation. In both cases, Internet content legislation is directly linked to media–fueled moral panics that concern uses of technology deemed harmful to children. This is of particular interest currently as a new Internet content bill, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), is being debated in the U.S. Congress. The technopanic over “online predators” is remarkably similar to the cyberporn panic; both are fueled by media coverage, both rely on the idea of harm to children as the justification for Internet content restriction, and both have resulted in carefully crafted legislation to circumvent First Amendment concerns. Research demonstrates that legislation proposed — or passed — to curb these problems is an extraordinary response; it is misguided and in many cases masks the underlying problem.
I originally wrote this paper for Helen Nissenbaum‘s Information Policy class at NYU Law School, and presented it at the iConference Doctoral Colloqium this past spring. Thanks to everyone involved in the iConference for valuable feedback, and thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for his helpful feedback. And thanks to danah boyd for her original essay which mentioned moral panics over MySpace, which inspired the research topic.Technorati Tags: myspace, moral panic, online predators