To catch a predator? The MySpace moral panic

Alice E Marwick


This paper discusses moral panics over contemporary technology, or “technopanics.” I use the cyberporn panic of 1996 and the contemporary panic over online predators and MySpace to demonstrate links between media coverage and content legislation. In both cases, Internet content legislation is directly linked to media-fueled moral panics that concern uses of technology deemed harmful to children. This is of particular interest right now as a new internet content bill, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), is being debated in Congress. The technopanic over “online predators” is remarkably similar to the cyberporn panic; both are fueled by media coverage, both rely on the idea of harm to children as the justification for internet content restriction, and both have resulted in carefully crafted legislation to circumvent First Amendment concerns. Research demonstrates that legislation proposed (or passed) to curb these problems is an extraordinary response; it is misguided and in many cases masks the underlying problem.


social networking sites; moral panics; children

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