The debate over social networking safety is increasingly tied up with the question of whether (and how) users should be authenticated before they are allowed onto a social networking site, however that term of art is defined. Age verification proposals have been flying for the last two years that would use a variety of approaches to determine the age / identity of users. [I have discussed those proposals in detail here.]
So, when I heard the news that the Catholic church “will set up a Catholic social networking Web site akin to a Catholic Facebook” so that Pope Benedict can text message thousands of young Catholics on their mobile phones during World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia this July, I just couldn’t help but wonder if the Pope and all the site’s users will be required to somehow have their identities or ages verified before they go online?
I’m being entirely serious. If anyone has information on how the site will work and whether the Church plans to use identity screening mechanisms, please let me know. I try to keep tabs on how each social networking site polices their site for underage or inappropriate use. I am personally quite skeptical that most current approaches can work effectively, but I am always willing to learn more about new tools and techniques.