Sunday, October 08, 2006

Perverted Justice and Other Oxymorons

The Los Angeles Times may be oppressed by their current ownership from the Tribune organization, which has been extreme enough to force the ouster of the current publisher, but at least the Times still has some skepticism about Internet stories that make shows like Dateline rush for ratings. Yesterday's story on "Are Web Sex Predators the Good Guys . . . or Grandstanders?" pointed out that this hot button issue has the potential to turn citizen volunteers into those engaged in illegal entrapment.

I'm not saying that those who use technology to prey on young people are an admirable group, but there are a lot of other uses for technology that deserve more public attention. How about the Information Literacy needs of students in primary and secondary school, who often can't recognize a hoax website or avoid plagiarism when writing a school report? Why doesn't funding for librarians to teach digital literacy get more attention in the media?

ABC defends their use of the most attention-grabbing group, Perverted Justice, whose tactics have verged on vigilantee justice. Like the Craigslist Experiment, personal data about those who pursue abusive sex practices -- including the photographs of those who correspond in search of sex -- have been posted online. Yet ABC describes them as consumer watchdogs.

"They've gone from being considered a vigilante group to being a watchdog group," said Hansen, who added that Perverted Justice volunteers are paid consultants to the show, similar to military analysts often used by TV networks.

How ironic that ABC would make this analogy, given the general corruption of the news by military analysts until the war in Iraq has become so obviously unwinnable.

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