Yesterday’s resignation by former CEO Owen Van Natta is not totally surprising, given MySpace’s continued losses in advertising, search revenues, and traffic. What is shocking, however, is that the senior leadership at NewsCorp and Fox Interactive remains in positions of power despite the significant mishandling of the scandal involving the discovery of more than 90,000 convicted sex offenders on NewsCorp’s flagship social networking site.
MySpace could have taken the steps to notify any parents whose children were contacted by convicted sex offenders, including changing terms of service to allow greater disclosure of sex offenders’ conduct. That’s what a responsible company with responsible management would have done. To my knowledge, they didn’t, presumably afraid of the negative publicity.
It’s time to clean house. If any NewsCorp or Fox executives kept parents in the dark about contacts their children may have had with any of MySpace’s 90,000+ convicted sex offenders, they should resign. This includes Lawrence (Lon) Jacobs, the Senior Executive Vice President and Group General Counsel of NewsCorp, who joined Aristotle’s board following Aristotle’s public questioning of NewsCorp over the handling of the sex offender matter.
Events like the arrest last week by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Fugitive Unit of a repeat sex offender using MySpace are a constant reminder that we need to remain vigilant. To quote AG Abbott: "Friday’s arrest is another stark reminder for parents whose children have profiles on social networking sites. Until true age verification technology is implemented, convicted sex offenders will continue illegally using MySpace.com and other networking sites to establish an online presence. All Texans must remain vigilant about the dangers posed by online sexual predators."(1)
Abbott is right. MySpace isn’t doing nearly enough to protect our children. Mr. Murdoch can explain why when the Attorneys General gather in Washington two weeks from today. Ultimately, if Mr. Murdoch doesn’t attempt to undo the damage that has been done, or if he can’t or won’t take responsibility, it’s time for him to go as well.