Feeds

Chat sites must take care of their kids

LunarStorm of opinion

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Interview The companies behind social networking sites are failing in their duty of care by not protecting their most vulnerable users, according to Matt Colebourne, CEO of digital society site, LunarStorm. He argues that companies like MySpace need to bite the bullet and put proper security systems in place, even if that means spending a fair chunk of change.

"It is as though these sites, which in many cases were developed for adults, are ignoring the fact that they have younger people online. MySpace, for instance, has not done its job," he reckons, referring to the case of a 14-year old girl who is suing the company for millions of dollars after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by someone she met on the mySpace network.

Simply listing proscribed behaviour to children and teenagers and expecting them to toe the line is naive: "You can't expect teenagers to follow the rules, and you have to presume that until someone is an adult, you don't always know enough to be able to make decisions that are in your own best interests. That is the presumption of law. So you have to take a proactive approach to monitoring, and have people patrolling the forums."

LunarStorm, which is aimed specifically at the 17 to 19 year old age group, employs security staff to keep tabs on what is going on in its chatrooms, and recruits volunteers to moderate each space and report anything untoward.

But it doesn't want to be Big Brother. After all, when you get a bunch of teenagers talking, there will be some frank and no doubt fruity discussions, and not all of these will be the kinds of things parents want their kids talking about. But until it crosses the line and becomes illegal or dangerous, Colebourne is happy to stay out of it.

"What we look for is content or behaviour that might cause harm - physical or mental - to come to one of our users," he says. "We are not the moral arbiters of this space."

The biggest problem, he says, is not the most high profile, but is bullying by the peergroup. "Let's not overstate the case. The threat [from paedophiles] is very small."

But it does exist, so how do you deal with it? Like MySpace, LunarStorm requires users to register and state their age. But again, like MySpace, there is no way of verifying the age listed is genuine (we signed up to LunarStorm as a 19-year-old, to see if we could - yep, no problem).

"Criminals will always misrepresent themselves, so you have to look for behaviour. We do some assessments of the kind of language people use because language is indicative of age - it is hard not to trip up if you are pretending to be younger than you are."

The company also has its back-end systems monitoring for indicative behaviour. This could be things like repeatedly searching for a very specific type of person to chat with, then lurking rather than contacting them. But also the behaviour profiles of the different age groups on the site are pretty well known. Anyone falsely claiming to be 19, for instance, should stick out like a sore thumb.

"Fixation is a pretty well known paedophile behaviour," he says. As for the rest? "Even I don't know what the other indicators are. We don't want anyone to be able to subvert our systems, so we keep the details secret." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.