The litany of complaints that MySpace.com has received during its short existence has, among other things, left little doubt that a hyper-connected world has its share of dangers among the many opportunities it presents.
This month, the families of five teenage victims of sexual abuse by adult users of the site filed suit against MySpace for negligence in protecting its users. This coming after the news that 33 state attorneys general are reportedly considering action against the company if it doesn't raise the age limit to join the site from 14 to 16, and begin verifying users' ages. In this world of unfettered access to information, MySpace's place as the lightning rod for controversy is well established.
MySpace, at least, is making sure the debate does not occur without it. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the site was preparing to roll out free parental notification software as it attempts to appease the government critics. And last Tuesday, the site, a News Corp. unit, announced it was teaming with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to distribute Amber Alerts to their members.
MySpace is in a delicate situation. On one hand, the company must ensure it is earnest in its efforts to find solutions to the potential dangers in the community it created. On the other hand, it must not alienate its core constituency: today's teenagers, a fickle bunch who seem to have less brand loyalty than any youth in history.
But however this continuing saga unfolds, it must be said the company has been proactive, managing to garner positive press without unleashing the inevitable "Big Brother" chants. Is it a short-lived tightrope act? Perhaps. But at least the company is showing some vision in a world that is notoriously shortsighted, and they just may be rewarded for it in the long run.