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MySpace Predator Caught By Code

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the true-names dept.

374

An anonymous reader writes, "Wired News editor and former hacker Kevin Poulsen wrote a 1,000-line Perl script that checked MySpace for registered sex offenders. Sifting through the results, he manually confirmed over 700 offenders, including a serial child molester in New York actively trying to hook up with underage boys on the site, and who has now been arrested as a result. MySpace told Congress last June that it didn't have this capability." Wired News says they will publish Poulsen's code under an open-source license later this week.

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374 comments

May I be the first to say... (5, Funny)

Capella or Bust (521807) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459875)

PWND.

Re:May I be the first to say... (5, Funny)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460751)

Einstein said: "there are two infinite things, the Universe, and the human stupidity. And I am not sure about the Universe..."

What kind of a dumb criminal would willingly give their real name and address while indending to then break the law.

What next? Robbing your local sperm bank's register after leaving a DNA "deposit"? Stealing a credit card to pay your utility bills?

Re:May I be the first to say... (5, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460919)

The only thing that worries me about this is 'authenticity'. What's to stop a vigilante group creating Myspace accounts in the names of registered sex offenders, and then reporting said accounts to the police? Sure, it's traceable with a bit of effort - but you just know that there'll be slips made, especially when you connect the words "sex offender", "children", "myspace", "police", and "media" in the same sentence.

Re:May I be the first to say... (1)

Pc_Madness (984705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460923)

Some people are just desperate ;)

Fsck MySpace (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16459877)

I think I speak for all of us when I say FUCK MYSPACE, and kudos to Wired.

MySpace told congress... (5, Funny)

sdBlue (844590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459883)

[sarcasm]While most of us here know how trivial searching for string a in string b is, I for one believe that Tom couldn't do it. Aside from all the horror that it is conceptually, the (lack of) stability of their site actually makes that statement believable![/sarcasm]

Whack myspace hard (3, Insightful)

mollog (841386) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460261)


MySpace needs to be whacked, hard. Harder.

The lazy, lying bastards should be shut down, made an example of. At the least, they're now liable because someone showed it could be done, and because they were too lazy to do it themselves, they now have a liability exposure for any child that was preyed upon through their web site.

Profit Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460639)

Do you think Ruppert Murdoch cares more about quarterly earnings or sex offenders roaming his digital empire?

Re:Whack myspace hard (4, Insightful)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460659)

Oh, bullshit. It may be a PR nightmare for them, but the truth is that they likely don't have a true liability in the situation, any more than ICQ/AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc. would have liability if their software was used by a pedophile to make contact with a child.

In fact, the question could be posed whether they would have liability if they went hunting for "sexual predators" and made a public spectacle of someone who could be guilty of nothing more than propositioning a police officer posing as a street walker - in other words, someone who could be required by their state to be registered as a sex offender but has shown no predilection towards the exploitation of children or forcing sexual contact on someone.

Easy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16459895)

Just skimmed the article, and it didn't seem all that easy even with the code. Though I guess 200 people is a lot comparitively speaking.

Re:Easy? (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459993)

Just skimmed the article, and it didn't seem all that easy even with the code.

How hard could it be? Supposing you have a list of registered sex offenders (and they *are* registered, so that should be relatively easy to obtain), all you have to do is write a Perl script that crawls through MySpace user pages, checking each page for those particular names. You'd get a lot of false positives off of people with names like "John Smith", but I could see where "Andrew Lubrano" would be caught easily. Most of the hard work in writing something like this has already been done in various modules on CPAN.

Re:Easy? (4, Funny)

ari_j (90255) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460259)

No. Most of the hard work in writing something like this is dealing with server errors, which Myspace serves up in lieu of content based on a sinusoidal pattern where you have between 10 and 100 percent probability of getting an error depending on the time of day on Mars.

Re:Easy? (3, Informative)

sdBlue (844590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459999)

Sure it's easy. Suck down the HTML to the search page. Build a routine that does the HTML POST, and iterate through each name in the Offender's list, using it for the value of the "search by real name" field. Parse for the result count string in the returned HTML. When result count >0, investigate further. Now, how easy is it for MySpace? I'd say about an order of magnitude easier - they have direct access to the database. Roughly something like: SELECT * FROM userbase WHERE EXISTS (SELECT offenders.realname FROM offenders WHERE offenders.realname like '%'+userbase.realname+'%') Sure, there's a little added complexity for slight spelling variations, but SoundEx and the like can be used for such purposes.

Easier (5, Funny)

MrSquishy (916581) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460135)

That seems like a complicated way to get the same results as:
SELECT * FROM userbase WHERE SexOffender="1";

Re:Easier (5, Funny)

sdBlue (844590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460171)

or SELECT * FROM userbase WHERE interests LIKE '%molest%' OR interests like '%catholicism%' ouch, yes he did!

Re:Easy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460201)

Who uses their real name to register on myspace?

Re:Easy? (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460519)

Idiots. (ie 98% of the population of MySpace)

Re:Easy? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460805)

Personally I'm more than a little shocked they were using anything close to their real names. Thank god criminasl are typically dumb as a box of rocks.

Also keep in mind, while I haven't read the testimony, "They don't have the ability" means the don't have the code written to perform those tests today, nothing more. Not "A million monkeys could never develop that code because its impossible, now, then, and in the future". And filtering for child molesters potentially puts them at risk, if they miss one the patents are almost certain to sue (you should have protected my kids! I shouldn't have to raise them and look after them...)

Don't believe it (5, Funny)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459917)

This article isn't credible. It must be a hoax. I mean, c'mon, you really expect me to believe someone wrote a 1,000 line perl script. And that it did what it was supposed to?

Re:Don't believe it (4, Funny)

jtobin (988724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459989)

Yeah, these days *real* programmers code in AJAX.


*Hides*

Re:Don't believe it (4, Funny)

Compholio (770966) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460047)

I mean, c'mon, you really expect me to believe someone wrote a 1,000 line perl script. And that it did what it was supposed to?
Yeah, everyone knows that good perl scripts only occur between 5 and 20 lines. DeCSS is what, 7?

Re:Don't believe it (0, Offtopic)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460091)

This article isn't credible. It must be a hoax. I mean, c'mon, you really expect me to believe someone wrote a 1,000 line perl script. And that it did what it was supposed to?

Sure, here's the source after I re-wrote it:

lyiyiy[]\][\[]'\;/\8768yhkj][[\][;'/.,.,,87897[] pedophiles.r.us[\][\][

LamenessLamenessLamenessLa menessLamenessLamenessLamenessLamenessLamenessLame nessLamenessLamenessLamenessLamenessLamenessLamene ssLameness

Re:Don't believe it (5, Funny)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460183)

you really expect me to believe someone wrote a 1,000 line perl script.


It was originally only 17 lines, but he had to make it 1,000 so it'd be readable.

Re:Don't believe it (0, Flamebait)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460673)

Or, he could just use Python ;)

Re:Don't believe it (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460187)

This article isn't credible. It must be a hoax. I mean, c'mon, you really expect me to believe someone wrote a 1,000 line perl script. And that it did what it was supposed to?
I can't get over the fact it's going to take them a couple of days to publish it. Why? How difficult is it to cat 1000 lines from /dev/random anyway?

The results from the script was only the start... (4, Funny)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460721)

He still had to ...manually confirmed over 700 offenders...

I sure hope he wore gloves and/or other protection for that part!

Re:The results from the script was only the start. (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460777)

He's probably too old for these "manual confirmations."

Re:Don't believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460767)

As I understand it, he could have done it in Java with about the same number of lines but he felt the gayness factor was inappropriate in this case.

The most amazing part of this code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16459931)

The perl code used to catch myspace pedos is the exact same unchanged script they use for page layout at wired mag.

Give this man an Award (1)

corroncho (1003609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459945)

I am a big fan of privacy. But I am also a big fan you losing your rights to privacy when you continually break the law in a fashion that puts others at risk, especially minors.

Maybe Myspace is just really that stupid (heck, their site design casues me to thik their programmer can;t be all that bright).
___________________________
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Re:Give this man an Award (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460203)

But I am also a big fan you losing your rights to privacy when you continually break the law in a fashion that puts others at risk, especially minors.

Right. But should someone, especially a minor, lose their rights to privacy when they're abused? Most abusers are closely related to their victims. Identifying the abusers goes a long way toward identifying the victims: "Hey, look! Suzy's dad got convicted for abusing a minor under the age of 14 shortly after Suzy's mom divorced him. Wasn't Suzy under the age of 14 shortly before the divorce?"

As far as losing other rights, society shouldn't do the same thing it did with 9/11 and airport security. If restrictions are placed on sex offenders after they are released from jail then they should directly correlate with preventing future offenses. For example, go ahead and ban sex offenders from chatting with kids on myspace but don't ban them from chatting with adults.

The only thing suprising about this is... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16459951)

It took 1,000 lines to do a string compare?

Re:The only thing suprising about this is... (4, Informative)

pilkul (667659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460315)

Doing a bunch of HTTP fetches, parsing and extracting the data -- from sources that were probably never designed to be automatically parsed, and hence have lots of weird exceptions and corner cases -- and then performing string compares, easily adds up to 1000 lines, especially with comments and error messages. The task is trivial in theory but somewhat hairy in practice.

And speaking from unpleasant experience, doing something like this in a language without features dedicated to text parsing (like C++ without the Boost Perl regexp library) would take at least three times the lines.

Re:The only thing suprising about this is... (2, Informative)

meeotch (524339) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460905)

For those who haven't already, check out Beautiful Soup [crummy.com] , which is a great python module for web-scraping - particularly when used together with ClientCookie [sourceforge.net] ... the results are shockingly elegant in many cases.

I've personally written functionally equivalent scripts of 100-200 lines to search MySpace for underag... oops, I've said too much.

Agreed. (1)

khedron the jester (888418) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460337)

He's probably duplicated several CPAN modules in the process, too.

Re:The only thing suprising about this is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460479)

Much was probably page spidering code, code to parse the pages for user names, etc. Nothing really new, but non-trivial to implement.

Is this legal? (2, Insightful)

imaginaryelf (862886) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459991)

I know what he did was a good thing, but what if I wrote a script to go through MySpace looking for other "stuff?" Isn't this a breach of privacy and wouldn't this person or MySpace be vulnerable to lawsuits?

Re:Is this legal? (5, Informative)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460019)

Isn't this a breach of privacy and wouldn't this person or MySpace be vulnerable to lawsuits?

Anything you put on a public web site is--by definition--not private. It would be a breach of privacy if MySpace used private, personal information, but if the script just culled information from public pages, there's no breach of privacy.

Re:Is this legal? (2, Insightful)

fithmo (854772) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460781)

Also, as for the people caught (since they're likely the only people who might complain), I believe that you give up some of your privacy rights when you register as a sex offender.

Re:Is this legal? (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460033)

There is no breach of privacy by writing code that can observe publicly available material.

unless it was called "ia_archiver" (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460151)

Re:unless it was called "ia_archiver" (2, Insightful)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460589)

Even so, robots.txt is not a privacy guarantee, it's only a friendly suggestion.

Re:Is this legal? (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460041)

if I wrote a script to go through MySpace looking for other "stuff?" Isn't this a breach of privacy

Kind of depends. I mean, you intend to make information public when you publicly post it on MySpace, right? So why would you be upset when people start looking for that information? Search engines used to be able to find personal webpages when those were all the craze.

The truth is, if you are concerned about privacy, don't make your personal matters public. Share only what you're willing to tell people, and hide things that should only be shared with a select few behind passwords. Then if someone breaks your security (even if it's fairly simple security), you at least have a case for your privacy being violated.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460129)

Funny that when people do it, it's not an invasion of privacy, but if someone were to, oh lets say... collect public 911 call data or addresses of power plants from a phone book, whoa! Stand back! The government can't have it's "privacy" fast enough and might knock you over on its way to "save" it.

Re:Is this legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460053)

Yeah. How is it legal that you can write a program to visit public pages on the web, and catalog their content, to make it easier to search later?

Re:Is this legal? (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460067)

If you put something on your myspace page, it is publicly accessible. Therefore by definition, you have no right to privacy concerning this item. What is the actual issue here?

Re:Is this legal? (5, Informative)

KiltedKnight (171132) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460305)

If you are only sifting through public information, then there is nothing illegal about this.

If you are sifting through private information, then one of the following is true:

  • If you are a Law Enforcement Official, anything you discover cannot be used to obtain a warrant, nor can this evidence be used against someone without it being lawfully reacquired once a warrant has been issued
  • If you are a private citizen, unless you violated some sort of Terms of Use or other agreement to obtain the information, it is not illegal for you to use it
Yes. It is perfectly legal for a private citizen, acting on his or her own volition, to perform searches. The illegality occurs when laws are broken to obtain the information (breach of contract, breaking and entering, etc).

Re:Is this legal? (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460343)

IF the information used was available on the MySpace page of the offender or in public court house records available online or whatever it is, the fact is that the guy either volunteered the information or access to public records voluteered it for us. Therefore I don't see any breach of privacy.

Caught by code? Or by hand? (1)

miratim (532741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16459997)

It looks like from TFA that the code did very little of the work, and the vast majority of effort was done by hand. So this guy wasn't really "caught by code", was he?

didn't have the capability (5, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460021)

...he manually confirmed over 700 offenders, including a serial child molester in New York actively trying to hook up with underage boys on the site, and who has now been arrested as a result. MySpace told Congress last June that it didn't have this capability.


Thus spake the article:

...Lubrano was so easy to find. "He registered on MySpace using his real name? What a nitwit."


No amount of rummaging through any database is going to detect someone who registers under a false name, so no MySpace will NEVER really have the ability to find all the sex offenders, unless they can somehow verify that people are who they say they are when they sign up. Though they do now have the ability to catch the really stupid ones it seems.

Re:didn't have the capability (1)

Greventls (624360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460275)

I'd think doing it by name would be the easiest way. But of course the pedos wouldn't use their real name if they had any clue. I imagine another way would be to just compare ages of users that are friends. There would need to be a cutoff age, but anyone over a certain age with a large number of underage friends could be flagged. Then their account can be searched for sex related terms, particularly in messages to underage people, and flagged to be looked at. Of course people would figure out ways around it by lying about their age. I imagine myspace said it couldn't be done because if they started monitoring it and something happened, they could end up being liable. I'm thinking along the lines of the ISP defense.

Re:didn't have the capability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460325)


So say you hate some asspipe...

So register in myspace under the name of some evil sex offender currently wanted and post stuff claiming to be living at the asspipe's house, and start trolling for 12 year olds...

Of course, you need to use an open terminal in a poorly regulated place so they can't trace you...

Re:didn't have the capability (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460327)

Though they do now have the ability to catch the really stupid ones it seems.

That's all we ever catch. The stupid ones. Well, that and the really unlucky ones. The ones that are smart enough to kidnap some kid from some non-surveillance location, abuse them, and release them far away from either the pickup point or the place where they abused them are seldom caught - and the ones that are so successful at their emotional abuse that the victim (regardless of age) never even reports the abuse. I'm not sure if that's intelligence or just skill at manipulating people.

Ever watch 60 Minutes? They had a special on a sting they did and guys just kept showing up at the house all day. Some of them even saw a cop, or some other guy, and waited for a while, then came back. I mean, what kind of idiot do you have to be?

Re:didn't have the capability (2, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460463)

Yeah I couldn't believe the 60 minutes segments; some people really are dumb.


However, what bugs me about the article is it saying things like:

...it's all up to MySpace. We can't count on parental supervision...


I call BS: as a parent it is your responsibility to know where your kid is, and to teach them how to avoid child predators. If your kids spends time online every night, wouldn't it be a good idea to talk to him/her and find out what they are doing online, and who they are talking to?? Yet another article claiming, "don't worry parents, it isn't your job to keep your kids safe online!" isn't helping the problem at all.

Re:didn't have the capability (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460625)

You're reading that quote wrong. Your sentiment is correct, it is the parents' responsibility. The quote is also right, we can't count on that to actually happen, since most 'parents' are hardly competent to drive down to the corner store, much less raise living human beings.

Re:didn't have the capability (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460691)

Yet another article claiming, "don't worry parents, it isn't your job to keep your kids safe online!" isn't helping the problem at all.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I think that the majority of american parents (can't speak for other nations) want the government to raise their kids. Personally I do buy into that whole "it takes a village to raise a child" thing, I think that the lack of social health in our society that leads us into more and more insular relationships is being self-perpetuated, and I think it's incredibly, utterly unhealthy. Regular interaction with large, complex social scenes helps us be better able to perform those kind of interactions in the future, and those interactions are what drive both social interaction and technological progress.

So anyway, where I'm going with all this is that parents do need help raising kids, but instead of working on their own social scene (which is what they would derive the most benefit from) they are expecting the government to make the world safe for them.

Unfortunately, the world will never be safe and so the solution isn't in society, it's in your children. You have to raise your children so that they are equipped to deal with an unsafe world. Most parents just try to hide everything from their children that's inconvenient or difficult for them to explain to them. But, it simply doesn't work that way - in fact, that only makes them unprepared to deal with the real world. Have you noticed that guns are only getting harder to get, but gun crime is still increasing? I mean in the thirties and forties not only could anyone who looked like an adult go down and purchase a handgun and a bunch of ammo for it at the same time, with no background checks, but in many if not most states, your right to carry a loaded weapon on public property was explicitly protected. That means parks, schools, and even courthouses.

To me, this is proof of two things. One of them is that so-called "gun control" does not work. This is sort of a truism in the pro-gun camp but this is the real proof in the proverbial pudding. The other is that the government knows precisely what the second amendment is for - protection from the government - and is working specifically to dismantle it. If you can carry your guns into a courthouse, that puts pressure on the judge to work in the best interests of the community and we can't have that, can we?

Re:didn't have the capability (4, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460405)

> Though they do now have the ability to catch the really stupid ones it seems.

We had a sliding screen door that didn't work too well. My wife left it half-open one day. I asked her how many flies she thought that would keep out:
a) all of them
b) half of them
c) none of them
d) just the dumb ones

Re:didn't have the capability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460529)

What was her answer?

Re:didn't have the capability (4, Funny)

maj1k (33968) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460693)

(e) you're sleeping on the couch tonight, smart ass.

A little perspective (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460081)

Given all the people with convictions that were checked, less than one in a thousand had a conviction since 2000 and were on MySpace. Of those couple of hundred, one seemed to be trying to prey on little girls. This seems to be pretty much of a non-problem.

On the other hand, if I had to worry about anybody, I'd worry about our senators. A way higher proportion of our elected elite prey on the young than we have caught doing so on MySpace. In case you hadn't been paying attention, here's a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Foley_scandal [wikipedia.org]

We spend way too much time worrying about things that aren't much of a problem and way too little time worrying about the things that can really get us.

Re:A little perspective (1)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460723)

Not paying enough attention? The media has been doing nothing but covering Foley since they got wind of it. I don't know what rock you're living under.

Of course, if you mean they're not covering the whole story of pedo senators, then you'd be right. But what exactly is your logic here? A senator is a pedophile, and you don't believe (inexplicably) it has been given enough coverage. Therefore, this story is a non-issue?

Congressmen (1)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460103)

Perl is a great language for writing such sophisticated logarithms.

Re:Congressmen (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460641)

Perl is a great language for writing such sophisticated logarithms.

Naturally.

Does slashdot lead by example? (3, Funny)

Xemu (50595) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460115)

With tens of thousands of teens visiting a site daily there is a significant risk is that a couple of sex predators are on the prawl.

So the question is... does Slashdot check all users if they are registered sex offenders or does this Paulsen guy have to run his script here too?

Re:Does slashdot lead by example? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460329)

So...do you have any pictures of yourself you can upload? :-)

Re:Does slashdot lead by example? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460377)

Good, that script should catch a few.

Re:Does slashdot lead by example? (1)

Apotekaren (904220) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460583)

If only Slashdotters got any sex to begin with...

The best line in there... (3, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460169)

Best part:

That position drew a skeptical line of questioning from Congressman Greg Walden, R-Oregon

"If you're checking for the amount of skin in an image and that sort of thing, and however your logarithms work, you'd think you ought to check, you know, 'John Doe', who happens to be a sex offender, and weed them out," Walden said at the time.

(In fairness to the Congressman, it's certainly possible that he said "algorithms" and it was mistranscribed...)

Re:The best line in there... (1)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460283)

Perhaps then Teddy Stevens actually said the internet was a series of interconnected servers? Damned typists.

The notion that my congressmen actually know what a computer is helps me put faith back in government.... ohhh wait.....

Good Job Kevin (1)

CherniyVolk (513591) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460191)


As an ex-MySpace drone, I only joined becuase I wanted to see how far I could customize the HTML for my own account. I did very well, then looked at all the friends list and figured... "Who the hell are these people?"

No doubt, all sorts of personalities exist on MySpace. I can deal and respect many of the objectionable ones, but I think a couple of crimes are universal. Child (a real child not 'underage' teenager, a *child*) molestation, and ratting on another person. Even those incarcerated tend to target such people found guilty of these crimes. A lot can be said here, if even those the greater society outcasts chose to outcast such people.

Re:Good Job Kevin (5, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460549)

I can deal and respect many of the objectionable ones, but I think a couple of crimes are universal. Child (a real child not 'underage' teenager, a *child*) molestation . . .

Now why is that, exactly?

We know that child molestation has occurred for untold eons. Humans are therefore resilient, resistant to such things, for the sake of survival. And at the risk of getting flamed, I want to point out the evidence that most victims of such mistreatment do in fact go on to lead normal lives. Natural selection sternly requires it.

So. Why is child molestation such an obviously hideous evil?

Is it just because we in the West are presently obsessed with sex?

I swear I am not trolling. I myself am actually a victim, from age 8, but I seem to be fine (although my level of slashdotting may be a sign of a deep malfunction). Ever since I realized that I survived unscathed, I have been wondering for a long time why this subject gets an automatic "OMG teh molestation!!!11!" response, when it is actually such a commonplacde in human history.

It almost -- ALMOST -- smells like we are protesting too much.

Re:Good Job Kevin (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460655)

It's because people want to outlet their aggressive tendencies someplace, and we've all collectively aggreed that "child molesters" (and now, to some degree "terrorists") are a target that no one will object to our over-reactive hatred for. Other acceptable groups include "cop killers". Let's get all righteous and bloodthirsty over these groups of people, now that it isn't socially acceptable to hate a group based on their skin color.

See how far we've come?

Re:Good Job Kevin (2, Insightful)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460669)

Ever since I realized that I survived unscathed, I have been wondering for a long time why this subject gets an automatic "OMG teh molestation!!!11!" response, when it is actually such a commonplacde in human history.

It is a fear response.

On the other hand, if there is a way to find out repeat sexual predators who are looking for new prey then shouldn't we use that method?

I'm going to make a general comment - I find MySpace unbearably creepy and exhibitionistic. I wonder if its purpose was to provide titillation and unhealthy fascination in young people because it appears to be doing an excellent job at that.

I wonder how many false positives he got (3, Interesting)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460211)

I suspect the answer will illustrate why a white hat wouldn't be doing this sort of thing.

I think these quotes says it all (4, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460215)


It's all up to MySpace. We can't count on parental supervision...


And then there is Jacob, one of the kids this 39 year old had "friended":



I do think its kinda weird for that age to flirt with me and stuff," he writes. "Like, kinda desperate and kinda leading me to think that something's wrong. But I didn't really do anything. I love being complimented. So, I thought it was nice of him to say that he thought I was cute or whatever."

MySpace is a big part of Jacob's life, and his greatest fear is that this story, or the ongoing police investigation, will get him banned from the internet, or he'll lose his MySpace profile. I urge him to be more careful about adding friends -- he has 3,800 of them -- and to make his profile private. He says he will, but so far his MySpace page remains wide open.

So Jacob's parents can't be bothered to, you know, go see wtf this kid is doing on MySpace? The earlier comment snippet makes it seem like the parents of this kid are totally off the hook here, but guess what? Wether your kid is hanging out at the local corner or someplace online, you really need to know where they are and what they are doing. And then there is the whole issue about not talking to stangers in the first place; apparently his parents have completely missed the boat in that area. Scary.

Okay, the FBI is a bunch of ******* (5, Interesting)

adaptive_tech (1014369) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460219)

I'm quite glad for this guy; but law enforcement's malaise still cheeses my off a bit. Indeed, writing a Perl script to spider MySpace is not rocket science -- I whipped one up six months ago as part of a graduate school project. Immediately sensing the possibilities of catching people like this, I contacted several people in the CIA and FBI through my school. After several painfully blunt explanations, none of them could grasp how the script could be used in their agencies. Governments and major corporations wonder why China can get into "secure" sites and "kids" write viruses like "ILoveYou" or "Blaster". It's because they're so monolithically slow, stupid, and blind that they can neither see nor react to their environments. Maybe law enforcement will "wise up" and start offering prize money / sponsoring competitions, just like the recent Bio-Tech news here on Slashdot.

argh (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460257)

3 pages of articles

Only to get to a misdomeanor charge of attempting to endanger

What a let-down

With a MAX of 90 days in jail, gee, the world is safe now ;)

They had hundreds of hits on the names and that's the best they got?

I am all for catching the bad guys, but you have to KEEP them to do any good ya know.

MySpace should check for more than this! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460287)

All communications between adults and minors should be checked by MySpace and blocked if the adult is seeking friendship with kids. Unless they are related adults and children should not be chatting with each other on the internet. No normal 40 year old man likes making friends with 12 year old boys! Anyone who does that is a predator waiting to happen. Don't wait for it to turn sexual. Stop it now before the abuse happens!

Re:MySpace should check for more than this! (1)

Alchemar (720449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460831)

And how do you check if they are related. I like knowing what my nephew is doing on line, but because of a serperation an marriage, his last name, my last name, and his mom's current last name, and his mom's previous name do not match.

I can see keeping someone out that has been tried and found guilty in a court of law, "Stop it now before abuse happens" smack of guilty until proven guilty. You don't even get a shot at proving yourself innocent, yet alone being presumed innocent. I agree with check to see what is happening. Require an email address for a guardian for anyone under 18, and notify them if an adult wants to be the child's friend, but there are several reasons for an older man and younger kid to interact on the internet as well as real life.

In my above situation we are related. In another, my live in girlfriend has a 6 year old daughter that I am not related to, but lives with me. She already has an email account, that her mother monitors strictly. In a few more years, when she gets her own computer with internet access, I am the one that is going to be making sure she learns about the internet. If she has an account anywhere, I will be monitoring it on a regular basis. There is no way to determine that I am a protector and not a predator other than asking her parents.

On top of that, people seem to get child molester and sexual offender mixed up. He wrote a script that checked for sexual offenders. A few of them turned out to be child molestors. In some states if you are caught at a frat party in your underwear, you are a sexual offender. I think it was Ohio that tried to pass a law, that if you were accused of being a sexual offender, you had to register as a sexual offender for 7 years before you could petition the court to get your name removed.

why release it? (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460351)

You're just going to have a huge drain on resources from people doing redundant searches (to put it simply, the search feature is going to get a captcha). It would be better to have mySpace cross check user data with sex offender data and then take the time to verify and then pass the information quietly off to officials who can double check before knocking on any doors.

It would also be trivial to implement reports on age discrepencies. If someone is messaging a number of people that are significantly younger then the user would be flagged and the communications checked to see if there's a potential problem. It's entirely possible a teacher is communicating with students so obviously a real human is going to have to verify findings.

Since all the data resides on mySpaces server, as long as they don't publish their findings publically, there isn't an issue with privacy.

It's very simple why mySpace doesn't want to implement this ability into their system: it costs them money and people will whine about privacy.

Privacy for you means privacy for everyone including criminals.

Re:why release it? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460737)

You're acting like DDOSing MySpace off the Internet is a bad thing?

Names (5, Interesting)

ezzewezza (84083) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460365)

So how many false positives and false negatives does this produce? i.e., how many non-offenders does it misidentify as being offenders and how many offenders does it misidentify as non-offenders? Furthermore, of the offenders properly identified, how many of them are actually committing, planning to commit, thinking about committing, wanting to commit, or some other way being involved with the committing of a sexual offender related crime on myspace?

While the tool may produce results, are the results good enough and non-damaging enough to be useful? (I'd consider any given non-offender being identified as an offender and subsequently harrassed as such rather extensively damaging.)

Re:Names (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460445)

Wasn't it just released last week that more than 50% of the people on myspace are 30yo or higher? Is it illegal for sex offendors to use myspace?

Tch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460379)

Dark Dante is such a narq nowadays.

MySpace told Congress (3, Funny)

SQLz (564901) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460397)

MySpace told Congress last June that it didn't have this capability.

Should read: Jim Foley breathed a sigh of relief when MySpace told Congress last June that it didn't have this capability.

Re:MySpace told Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460713)

Remember, only Democrats may be abuse interns. When the President does it, it's a "Republican Witchhunt". When a Republican does it, it's a scandal.

Re:MySpace told Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460745)

James Foley [boston.com] ? Or did you mean Mark Foley?

Reporters should not be agents of the state. (4, Interesting)

faux pseudonym (1014377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460557)

Hey folks.

Picking and choosing when it is/is not OK to cooperate with authorities in a criminal investigation might be very convenient for Kevin Lee Poulsen, but it should give his sources -- past, present, and future -- significant pause.

Wired News -- and Kevin -- have shown that writing a splashy story means more to them right now than the danger of blurring the lines between reporter and cop. This isn't about protecting kids, or about what MySpace should or should not do. It's about eroding the role of the journalist as a fair and impartial witness, in a time when too many people are already barking up that tree.

A hacker should know better.

-- Adrian Lamo

from the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460559)

the myspace security officer wanted a list of email addresses from sexual predators

it sure sounds like a good idea like mandatory sex offender registration (sarcasm.. since most dont register)

couldn't a pervert use a disposable email account? however a majority of them aren't very intelligent so it might stop a bunch of them.

a better solution is to legalize the assault of sexual predators. if you got your ass beat over touching kids, wouldn't you stop doing it after awhile?

Hmm... (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460561)

Looking at myspace I doubt if their programmers COULD write a 1000 line perl script. Just because you're average slashdot user has this technology, does not mean that the programming geniuses at myspace do.

Re:Hmm... (4, Funny)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460651)

Myspace IS a 1000 line pearl script.

Do one better (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460579)

Think MySpace is incompetent with the "We can't do this" statement? Try one better. You really, really don't want to actually do the below; it's probably illegal. I am not responsible for how anyone abuses the below conjecture.

MySpace seems to let users put JavaScript on their pages. MySpace also seems to check your authentication token on their pages. So, javascript to use xmlhttpobject and go to their profile pages and submit a password change, invisibly? One better, steal the MySpace login form code and throw an HTML hidden area that's a log-in form and let Firefox/IE/Opera auto-fill with their password, and send its contents to your personal Web server with XMLHttpObject.

Email Registry Is a Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460593)

Sure, you might get them to register their ISP email address. I doubt very much though that offenders are going to register Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo or any other free email services. And who is going to police the offenders? Who is going to check the IP numbers against all the free email services and a the list of sex offenders to make sure that they are not using a "secret" email address? Oh I know they will get PervertedJustice http://www.perverted-justice.com/ [perverted-justice.com] and Dateline http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/ [msn.com] to do it. Yeah, those two groups would be perfect. They can't even keep track of sex offenders in the real world.

1,000 lines? (1)

Xaroth (67516) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460617)

I suspect that once this is released under that open-source license, a lively round of Perl Golf will follow.

"I can write that script in 70 characters or less, George!"

kdawson's use of topics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16460637)

kdawson, I am not sure that you read this, but hopefully someone will forward this on to you.

Some of us slashdot readers actually use the categories when looking at stories to read. I am unclear on what the 'Security' aspect of this MySpace article is, but 'The Internet' is aptly used. Your use of the Enlightenment [slashdot.org] category to label this story about the Illuminati books [slashdot.org] and about hardware recycling [slashdot.org] make it seem that you have no idea that the Enlightenment category is used for the GUI, rather than the spiritual process. Please understand what a catagory means before labeling stories with it.

On the random topic of categories, why doesn't an editor just create a 'Social Networking' category already to file all the MySpace/Facebook/Friendster stories under already.

am I the only one .. (0, Offtopic)

BalkanBoy (201243) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460911)

that thinks MySpace is a huge overdone, bloated, kitsch, piece of crap? I personally like multiply.com 10x better...

Bravo, Kevin. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460917)

Good work. -jcr

I would just like to point out (2, Interesting)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 7 years ago | (#16460941)

That he manually confirmed 700 of the results.
That doesn't say how many false positives he sifted through to get to those.
Should Myspace be required to have people who manually confirm all users aren't sex offenders?
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