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 How Can We Discourage Sexual Predators?

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Posted - 09/26/2007 :  19:35:06  Show Profile  Visit Administrator's Homepage
Dear Members,

We are about to launch "FaceBook"-like personal blogs for each community member. However, there is a major ethical/legal problem that we face.

Sexual predators use social networking websites to seduce young members. In fact, FaceBook is currently in major legal trouble over this very point at:

To protect our communities from lawsuit, I believe we should agree that the following is inappropriate, and grounds for being banned:

  • Posting of lewd or pornographic pictures/videos.

  • Sexually provocative or explicit communications (i.e., talking about intercourse or "kinky" sexual behaviors). Talking about sexual impairment (e.g., low libido) would, however, be permitted.

  • Sharing of identifying information (e.g., real name/address/phone number etc.).

  • Asking to meet another member in person.
I would very much like your feedback on this important ethical issue.

Phil Long M.D.

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Posted - 09/26/2007 :  22:47:14  Show Profile
Dr. Long,
I agree that there should be some very definite limits to what can be posted in a member's blog. Privacy and safety are of the utmost importance. I think the guidelines you mentioned are wise .

"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible."
Helen Keller
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Posted - 09/29/2007 :  23:24:29  Show Profile
Yes, those are all great ideas. Another possibility to consider, to help screen out predators, sexual and otherwise, is to have a minimum post count in the forums before being allowed to have a blog here. Not even a high number necessarily, but at least enough to get to know the person a little, 5 to 15 maybe, depending on how many "Me too" or "Thanks" posts the person has.

From what you've said, the blogs are going to be privately hosted, with protections to prevent search engines like Google from scanning the posts and presenting them in search results. So already, you've limited access to these blogs to people within this community. If you then make the blogs only accessible to people who are at least minimally known in the community, it adds one more layer of protection and trust. If someone's first 5 posts to this community are about how old people are and if they live near them, then that's a red flag that this person may not be safe, and shouldn't be allowed access to people's blog, much less the forum communities. Having a minimum post count may not screen out all predators, but it would at least add a layer of challenge for predators, and they may look elsewhere for easier ways to find vulnerable people.

Plus, having minimum post counts in the forums may help with keeping down the cost of hosting the blogs. Meaning, for example, let's look at someone like me, whose last visit here was a year ago, and I've only now posted twice. I haven't been around long enough to have a stake in the community yet. If I were given a blog right now, I may post once or twice in it, and then may move on to something else. Then you've got a dead blog on your hands. Add in a few hundred of these kinds of blogs, and you're spending money on a lot of "dead" space.

However, if I begin making posts and responding to others in, say, the Depression community, I'm increasing my involvement and stake in this site. The chances are more likely that I'm going to be more actively involved in my blog here as well. And, there's the added bonus of getting to know me and what my intentions are, concerning this site.

So, minimum post counts may not only help with screening out predators, it may indicate the amount of involvement a person is likely to have on a blog. Of course, that's not to say someone may post hundreds of times on a forum but will never make posts in their blog, or that someone who posts a lot isn't a predator who's really good at manipulating others to think they aren't, but, it may provide just that extra layer of protection for all members of this community.

Welcome back to our community Altered,

Your suggestions are excellent.

  • We will require 15 posts in our community before a member is given a personal blog.

  • We will discourage members asking other members their age.

  • We will discourage members asking where other members live (i.e., the city).
Next week, when we activate these personal blogs, we will inform our members of these new "rules". Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Phil Long M.D.

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Posted - 10/06/2007 :  12:38:26  Show Profile
We're far more private and anonymous than facebook. we won't get the traffic they do by a wide margin. Won't be as many creeps that even know we exist.

that being said, maybe there should be a policy in place as to what we can post and what we can't. those guidelines are fine. What kinds of pictures, content, degree of personal info etc. And not guidelines but actual protocol. That certain files and/or text can be removed if they don't fit the rules. This does hinder free speech but in exchange for safety, it's not a big deal.

I'm not saying i agree or disagree with this way of doing things but if you want to discourage creeps from ogling people online this is the way to do it.

Also, um.. not sure how you plan to do this. But why not make that area private? based on post volume. did someone say that? I think they did already. Facebook is supposedly very secure.

"Don't disturb my circles!" - The last words spoken by Archimedes
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Posted - 10/06/2007 :  15:01:20  Show Profile
Dr Long, what you suggest is very sensible.
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Posted - 10/15/2007 :  12:59:29  Show Profile
I think the only way to discourage sexual predators is to basically not give them any encouragement and have them all castrated
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Posted - 10/21/2007 :  12:29:20  Show Profile

Sorry, but this sounds like you don't want the crazies to get together to make more crazies! What if you've been messaging a person for a while and want to meet them outside of this website. I believe that should not be grounds for dismissal. If the asking to meet another member is unwanted, then yes, that could be a bannable offense.
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Posted - 10/21/2007 :  16:19:45  Show Profile  Visit Administrator's Homepage
Good question Nutmeg,

How anonymous should our community members be?

We have purposely asked our members to remain anonymous:
  • We believe that this minimizes the risk that others would join our site just to prey on those of our members who may be unsuspecting (and sometimes very vulnerable).

  • There are many excellent social networking websites (e.g., MySpace, FaceBook); hence we did not want to offer a service that already exists elsewhere.

  • We wanted to offer a free service whereby those dealing with mental illness can anonymously receive help, and in turn anonymously help others. This concept is identical to that used in many 12-Step programs (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous).

  • My experience as a psychiatrist is that some individuals, when ill, can become overly dependent on a friend and exhaust their friendship. Thus, by remaining anonymous in our community, it is far less likely that this pathological dependency will develop.

  • It is hoped that healthy, albeit anonymous, friendships will be formed in our community. Thus we have created personal blogs that permit a member to privately communicate with friends. Nothing posted in our personal blogs can be "Googled" or indexed by an internet search engine.
We won't ban individuals who secretly arrange to meet other members, but we will remove any uniquely identifying personal information about our members from our website (e.g., email address, street address, etc.).

I would welcome everyone's thoughts on this "anonymous" policy.

Phil Long M.D.

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Posted - 10/21/2007 :  18:28:23  Show Profile
I completely agree with the annonymous guidelines. When in a psychiatric hospital, I was advised NOT to continue relationships with others who were in the program. Very good idea, as unhealthy individuals may have lots in common, but in a theraputic sense, the annonymity can be quite important and beneficial. Especially when sensitive issues are discussed. One angry member could damage a person's character, stablity and personal relationships with disclosure of personal information. The annonymity gives a person freedom to discuss troubling subjects in a 'safe place.'


People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.

~Rosalynn Carter
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