December 5, 2021

An Open Letter to Kevin Poulsen

Dear Kevin,
I just read your Wired Article and I can’t believe you did something this stupid. Here’s why:

Kevin, I’m usually all about protecting children. In fact, I run NoSlang.com which urges parents to learn about the internet slang that their kids use.

But you’ve gone too far on this little sex offender escapade. Your code is going to get some sex offender killed.

I know you state otherwise, but there’s really no reason a normal person needs this code other than to harass or threaten sex offenders. Scraping myspace is also a violation of their terms of service, which you fail to mention.

Specificially:

#4 any automated use of the system, such as using scripts to add friends or send comments or messages;
#5 interfering with, disrupting, or creating an undue burden on the MySpace Services or the networks or services connected to the MySpace Services;

I honestly hope that if somebody uses your software to track down a sex offender and kill him, that you get charged with murder.

Sure, you’re liable to find the occasional sex offender on there who’s doing wrong… but for every one of those, there’s 100 more who aren’t doing anything wrong. Is it worth inflicting undue harrassment and threats upon them just to catch 1 creep?

What about those who have been caught peeing in public, or those who had underage girlfriends. In Michigan if 2 15 year olds have sex with each other, they’re sex offenders. Now, thanks to your code they’re going to be harassed constantly on myspace.

The fact of the matter is simple: Most dangerous sex offenders are in prison. The rapists and child touchers generallly get many years in prison. It’s the underage girlfriend, peeing in public people that your program is going to find because they’re the ones not in jail.

Congratulations, you found one pedophile and created undue harassment for many more. You’d have had better luck simply following congressmen home from work.

All of these people you find have been deemed safe to return to society by our justice system. They should be treated the same as you and me.

If we’re going to track and find them, then why don’t you start tracking alcoholics, domestic violence, and even speeders.. because I don’t want children associating with them too.

In fact, lets run the criminal history of anybody who applies for a myspace account. Only those with no crimes against them can have accounts. Then everybody will be safe.

If you put half as much effort into teaching parents to be involved in their kids life as you do into villifying sex offenders, you might actually do some good.

Instead of going after these people, why not go after the kids that seek out and add 40 year old men to their friends list. It’s a 2 way street, and there’s obviously something wrong with those kids and their parents.

There’s an easy way to fix myspace (I wrote about this on shoutwire.com so I won’t repeat myself here)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you’re going to be doing more harm than good, and I can’t wait to see you charged as an accomplice when somebody uses your code to do harm to a sex offender or falsely slander somebody else.

After all, considering you yourself say that it’s mostly false positives, what legit use does your code have?

Wouldn’t it be easier and more accurate for a parent to just search the registry by hand for all of their child’s friends?

–Ryan

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com