Some Comments on Comments

I am usually excited when the rare comment is posted on my blog. I love to hear what other people are thinking about regarding the same issues that whirl around my head constantly.

What is annoying, however, are spam comments. Those comments that read like the emails that land in my Bulk email folder. Those comments that are placed by a “bot,” not a human. Those comments that find my blog probably because I have words like “sex” in it.

Here are some annoying examples:
“Hi.
Pheromones is sexual attractant for men and women, it helps to improve your sexual performance, satisfaction and enjoyment.”

“Hi,
erotic sex toys for man and woman, it helps to improve your sexual experience, satisfaction and enjoyment.”

These are semi-amusing because of the greeting placed in front of them. It’s like there really is a person out there trying to educate us about something relevant to the post.

I wonder how common these comment-bots are. I wonder how often they appear on the blogs scripted by teens and young adults who are likely to type those “trigger” words that these spammers seek out.

And how numb have we become to the idea that there are a bazillion (yes, I counted) products out there advertising that they can improve our sex lives? Does anyone really think these things work?

Let’s hope the kids are too smart to fall for them because they probably getting these messages more than I do.

Another Case of Child Pornography

According to Maine’s Bangor Daily News, a 15-year-old boy has been charged with downloading child pornography. There is no mention of the age of the children in the photos that were confiscated. Given the fact that the person charged with the crime is a “child” himself, it is possible that he was looking at sexually explicit pictures of persons his own age.

In the article David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Again Children Research Center is quoted as saying: “A large number of teens have said they have downloaded child porn (ed note: he does not mention the source of this data, but he and his colleagues are those responsible for reports such as the oft-quoted Second Youth Internet Safety Survey). Many do not realize it’s criminal. [To them] it’s sexual exploration…We also know many kids are taking sexual photos of themselves and friends and sending them to people. That is child pornography production and that’s criminal as well.”

This may be one of the first times an academic expert has stepped forward in the news to defend a minor’s use of not specifically child pornography, but pornography in general.


What’s the Right Thing to Do?

Lots of recent coverage on the ethics of reporting about online predators — most of it having to do with entrapment and vigilantism. Take for example Perverted Justice founder Xavier Von Erck, the man and web site behind NBC’s Dateline series, To Catch a Predator. In an Oregon Public Broadcasting story Von Erck claims to dislike children and authority, both of which are integral parts of his outfit. Yet, he willingly takes NBC’s money (enough to carry his organization comfortably through the year 2009) to champion the cause of saving children from these bad men he outs — one even killed himself to avoid arrest. Von Erck shows no remorse and instead complains that the suicide “robbed us of a conviction.” Who is the “us” exactly? Society? His organization? Dateline? Unclear.

Then there is the case of New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald. He published a series of articles about Justin Berry, a former child prositute who turned 18 and was currently grooming other children to follow in his footsteps. Berry was groomed himself, starting with an innocent purchase of a Webcam, then being paid to take off his clothes while online, and eventually meeting men face to face for sex. Eichenwald is on trial for allegedly “loaning” Berry $2,000 — an ethical violation in journalism. Nevertheless, he is still the recpient of a Payne Award, University of Oregon’s award for ethics in journalism.

I am not writing to support the actions of online predators. But what happened to trying to apprehend them the old-fashioned way? By arresting them for wrongdoing? I worry about the growing popularity of entrapment, paying off sources, and being rewarded for it. We don’t need people like Bernhard Goetz or Batman serving as model citizens.