Microsoft Introduces ‘One-Click’ Sexual Predator Reporting
Microsoft is adding a feature to Messenger which will allow users to, with one click of a button, report someone as a sexual predator.
Users of Microsoft’s Messenger email service will be able to report suspected sexual predators directly to the police at the click of a mouse.
In an attempt to protect the 11 million users of the service from potential abusers, the software giant has struck up a partnership with the UK government-backed Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre.
Microsoft will add a “report abuse” icon to Messenger that will link any users worried about their anonymous internet buddies directly to online police services.
It’s not entirely clear from the article, but it appears that this is only going to affect users in the United Kingdom. For now, anyway. I doubt it will be long before concerned parents groups begin clamoring for this in the U.S., as well.
As I see it, this is gonig to have some rather deleterious effects, not the least of which will be less people using MSN Messenger. After all, who wants to take the risk that a random mouse click is going to result in possibly being the target of a police investigation. After all, just the mere accusation of a sex-related crime can turn someone’s life upside-down, threatening their custody of their children, their jobs, and possibly their life.
The other major downside is that this will probably result in significantly higher numbers of investigations into internet sex predation. Higher numbers of investigations mean, first of all, higher numbers of people cleared of sex crimes–which means that resources that could have gone into catching actual predators have become a waste of time. So fewer sexual predators will be caught. Further, the increase numbers of reports, along with a high number of negatives, could lead overworked police officers into not uncovering real predators, who will no doubt become even sneakier due to the potential for increased monitoring of their activities. Again, the net result is that police will catch fewer predators.
Most of the time, the consequences described by the “Law of Unintended Consequences” are also unforseen consequences. In this case, though, the lousy consequences are pretty obvious. This is a terrible idea. What’s worse is that even though this system is unlikely to lower the number of sexual predators, once implemented, this is never going to go away. After all, neither Microsoft nor police departments are going to want to open themselves up to being accused of allowing perverts to prey on innocent children.
It’s sad, really, how perception can so easily overtake reality in the realm of politics. Especially when children are involved.
(cross-posted at Heretical Ideas)