The Financial Times posted an article this week about the ongoing push by state attorneys general to impose age verification regulation on social networking sites and followed it up with an outstanding editorial entitled “Out of MySpace.” They note:
Age verification… just will not work. The practical problems are considerable. Fourteen-year-olds do not have drivers’ licences and credit cards that can be checked via established agencies. The sites could insist on verifying the parents, but anyone who believes that a teenager will not “borrow” his father’s Visa has never been 14 years old.
The consequences of successful age verification, meanwhile, would be even worse. Minors would be driven off mainstream sites such as MySpace and Facebook and on to unaccountable offshore alternatives or the chaos of newsgroups and minor bulletin boards. There they would be far more vulnerable than on MySpace, which now makes efforts to keep tabs on its users.
That’s exactly right and it very much follows what I have found in my own research. If you’re interested, check out my paper “Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions,” as well the transcript of an event I hosted in March on “Age Verification for Social Networking Sites: Is it Possible? Is it Desirable?”
As I wrote about here, the last big showdown in the states took place in North Carolina in July. But it won’t be the last.