Social networking site MySpace, under tremendous pressure from parents, teachers and law enforcement agencies, on Wednesday announced that it had deleted some 29,000 convicted sex offenders from its service, more than four times
the figure initially reported. However, fears that people using social networking websites are inadvertently exposing themselves to PR predators, are probably overblown, researchers say.
Sameer Hinduja, an assistant professor in criminology at Florida Atlantic University and Justin Patchin, a political science researcher at the University of Wisconsin, recently conducted a test. The pair randomly selected 9282 profiles out of the 100 million purportedly available on the social networking site MySpace, the most popular social networking site and the fourth most popular English-language website in the world.
In the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescence, the researchers say that assiduous PR practitioners can, and do, glean important personal snippets from these postings. But overall the article says the situation is not as alarming as critics of social media currently suggest.
"When considered in its proper context, the results indicate that the problem of emotional manipulation and 'influence' using personal information does not seem to be as widespread as many assume," said noted PR industry analyst Martin Turnbull. "Seems just a tad overblown at the moment but firms are certainly gearing up," he added.