Folks who have been following the online safety debates know that the Attorneys General and MySpace agreed to work together and with other relevant social actors to develop a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety. Not surprisingly, they wanted a “neutral” party to lead this endeavor. Guess what? John Palfrey (executive director of the Berkman Center), Dena Sacco (former federal prosecutor in child exploitation cases) and I (the lovable author here) have agreed to co-direct the “Internet Safety Technical Task Force.” Our mandate is to develop recommendations for approaching online safety. The Task Force will bring together a variety of different organizations with different stakes to work out the best approach. Some of the tech companies involved include: MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, Bebo, AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, Linden Lab, Loopt, AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. The Task Force also includes the Attorneys General, organizations dedicated to online safety or children’s safety, and various vendors.
Those who know me are probably thinking WTF? It’s true – both online safety issues and anything involving politics tend to agitate me. At the same time, I actually think that I can make a difference by trying to help these different groups find common ground and come up with a solution that will work for them while not further disintegrating the rights and freedoms of youth. As a youth advocate, I feel that I need to not shirk away from these types of things, but get involved so as to make certain that youth’s voices are heard by those trying desperately to protect them. This is not to say that I don’t believe in child safety – oh boy do I ever – but that I also believe that safety efforts can and should be executed in a non-opressive manner. This is what prompted me to agree to co-direct this endeavor with two amazing legal scholars who understand youth issues from complementary points of views. It should be fun, or at least an educational roller coaster. No doubt you’ll hear more about it as we proceed.
For a better sense of my research as it relates to issues of online safety, check out the video/audio/transcript of a panel that I was on last spring with Michele Ybarra, David Finkelhor, and Amanda Lenhart: Just the Facts about Online Youth Victimization (sponsored by the Internet Caucus)