Thursday, June 22, 2006

MySpace MyScape - goat

Amber posted a few days ago about MySpace being sued for $30M by a 14 year old who was assaulted on a date with an 19 year old pretending to be a high school senior (17 or 18?). So with a nod of thanks to Amber, I'll directly lift my comment to her post:

"MySpace is a free dating site in disguise. Now if you were to go out on a date from a match on a dating site, is the site liable if you, god forbid, get assaulted? Companies should not be that vulnerable to litigation. At some point, human interaction, good or bad, is not the responsibility of anyone other than those involved.

So really the issue here is not what happened outside of MySpace. It’s that MySpace can’t control whether or not minors talk to adults. But then, can anyone control this online? You can age verify till the cows come home but when all the company sees is an ip address, how do you “really” know who’s on the other end?

It’s an unfortunate thing that happens but it also happens at clubs, parties and anywhere else people interact. Taken to an extreme, should the ISP or phone company involved in their interaction be sued? It’s a slippery slope when we start placing blame waaaay upstream."

Today, Fast Company has an article on the same topic. Professional journalist, of course, always say things better than I, so here is their take:
"This MySpace lawsuit is reminiscent of a relatively new and sometimes lucrative form of American justice: the consumer passing blame to a provider. Is it the fault of Philip Morris if people become addicted to "light" cigarettes? (A jury said it is.) Is it the fault of McDonald's if a customer if burned when she spills hot coffee? (Also yes, according to a jury.) And is it MySpace's fault when teenage girls are duped by older men? I guess we'll see what a jury decides."
I normally wouldn't bring this up, however, I started to think that it has relevance to something else I've been saying on this blog all along. Consumers are taking control. Or if you like grandiose terms, the meek are inheriting the Earth. We are seeing the consumer becoming empowered in ways historically reserved for the elite.

You see this in the proliferation of custodian consumers speaking for everyone else (my KFC chicken post). You see this in a very small number of conservative consumers shifting censorship on television (CBS's fine for indecency). You see this in consumers driving brand direction (my myriad of posts about consumer generated media). You see this in consumers turning into interactive vigilantes against corporations (The AOL quitter). And finally as in this MySpace case, you see consumers shifting a gross amount of responsibility onto a company.

Folks, there's a very powerful revolution going on all around us. This should be something to cheer about. Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility (Plagiarism spidey-sense tingling). I'm almost afraid that if consumers become too powerful, we'll have anarchy. With all these empowered consumers, can there be any cohesiveness in our society? With everyone saying, "Listen to me!", will anything matter anymore? More than likely, we'll end up with socio-economic fiefdoms based on similar beliefs as people congregate towards like-mindedness.

Woo, overthinking it. Pulling back a bit. I do believe that our society needs balance between the plebes and the powers that be. A couple fanatics should not be allowed to topple a decent system. So viva to the revolution but let's keep the music down and the guillotine-ing to a bare minimum.

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