Thursday, October 18, 2012

AC360 interviews anonymous Internet troll after Gawker outs him

Tonight, Anderson Cooper's AC360 (and Drew Griffin) show interviewed Redditt troll Michael Brutsch, from Arlington, TX, who got fired from a software company in Fort Worth, TX after his identity (based on the pseudonym “Violent Akers”) was revealed by Gawker. 

The CNN interview link is here;  and the Gawker link is here.  

Some of the activity that he moderated  (including “jailbait”) would seem to border on illegal child pornography, in the female images that had been collected.

In the interview, Brutsch admitted, “Some of these things can be harmful to other people.”  But a year before, Reddit had given him an award.

Now, at 49, he says his life is ruined.  Moderators have “complete control” unless they are reported as violating specific rules.  Brutsch said that he has a gift for “pushing people’s buttons” and making them mad.

Anderson Cooper had reported on his online "character" a year ago without reporting his name.  Now that his identity is unveiled, the gig is up.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Katie Couric covers the problem of protecting minors online on her own new show

Although I have covered NBC’s series “To Catch a Predator” on my TV blog (“The Unseen Tapes”, Nov. 15. 2009), I’ll out a note about Katie Couric’s episode today “How to catch an online predator” on my COPA blog. The link for the new show is here.

During the show, a Connecticut state police woman (Samantha McCord)  participate in a chat room and nabbed seven people as a decoy.

Several convicts discussed their motives and treatments, as did a clinical psychologist, who noted that only older minors can be targeted online.

One woman accidentally discovered that her husband was accumulating child pornography, and participated in a police sting to nab him.  He was not the man she married.

One older convict claimed that he did not know that he was talking to underage girls, which was a common excuse on the earlier NBC series.

Parry Aftab, attorney, noted that today smart phones and even gameboxes have become targets for criminals seeking children, and that parents must supervise them closely. Aftab mentioned that Section 230 (of the 1996 Telecommunications Act) gives service providers immunity from downstream liability for what users post (although I had thought that was mainly with respect to libel), but most reputable service providers have "terms of service" and will remove inappropriate contact that is flagged by other users and then is reviewed manually after the fact.  
On this particular episode, most of the crime was heterosexual (older men seeking underage girls) as was the case on the NBC series. 

See also Books blog, March 17, 2007, for review of Chris Hansen's book.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

FTC fines operator of some celebrity fan sites for collecting minors' info illegally

Several celebrity “fan sites” have settled with the FTC over alleged violations of COPPA and FTC rules. The operator (of sites “”, “SelenaGo,”.”, “DemiLavoto Fan Club”, the last of which no longer operates) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty.

The basic complaint seemed to be that the sites waived the requirements that children obtain parental approval before submitting requested personal information, when kids in fact did not obtain it. 

Internet companies say that COPPA rules, now enhanced for mobile devices, inhibit the development of sites for children, and could leave them to visit adult sites, now considered constitutionally protected since the COPA ruling in 2007.

The link for the story by Natasha Singer in the Business Day New York Times (Bits blog) on Thursday Oct. 4 is here.  

Monday, October 01, 2012

FTC will invoke stronger rules on data collection from minors

The Federal Trade Commission will be tightening rules on how Internet companies gather data on minors, often without parental permission, the New York Times reported Friday September 28 in a story by Natasha Singer. The title is “U.S. is tightening web privacy rule to shield young; target of data miners; marketers say the rules could reduce sites for children”, link here

That would particularly affect social networks for children.  It would sound as though it could raise questions about how aggressive social networking sites for adults (Facebook) could make sure that persons under 13 don’t get on, or isn’t collected from older kids.

The rules seem to focus on automated apps.

Sites that don’t track visitors directly would not be affected.

I don’t think there would be questions about site analytics (like Urchin or Google Analytics), but shrewd webmasters might be able to gather some information about visitors from these tools, because servicing companies sometimes encourage them to.