It was bound to happen, it just did. Four families have sued News Corp and the MySpace social networking site after their daughters were sexually assaulted by offenders they had met on the site.
In response, MySpace will release Zephyr, an application for parents to closely monitor the description their children use on the social networking site. The program should in principle help ensure that children or teenagers do not give away sensible information or enter a false profile (ie older age). Monkey Bites, however, sees through the monitoring app, claiming:
For all practical purposes Zephyr seems to do little more than possibly give MySpace some wiggle room in its many pending lawsuits.
And that’s not forgetting the skepticism Zephyr has received from other Web companies. According to MSNBC, both Facebook, the social network site and Xanga , a weblog community, declined to take part in Zephyr. Other bigger companies like Google or Yahoo have yet to say whether they will join.
While parents who install Zephyr on their PCs won’t be able to view the content posted on MySpace, they’ll be kept informed every time a profile is updated. The program will also let monitored users know that it’s keeping an eye on them. For this reason, you start to wonder if Zephyr might not instead lead teenage users of MySpace to move on to other social networking sites where they know their parents can’t monitor them. We’ll have to wait till June to test out Zephyr’s effectiveness and see the consequences of it on MySpace’s popularity.