A while ago, I invented a concept of “Magic Trees”, named after the story of a vicar who chopped down a 140 year old tree and justified it by saying “A paedophile might have been hiding behind it”. This was later expanded to include invisible terrorists.

This morning a different story caught my attention. A social network site I’ve never heard of has recently banned a large number of its users over 36, possibly all of them, because:

Having discussed the use of our website with the home office and the police, and further some pretty serious crimes caused by older users, we were left with no option but to terminate a huge amount of accounts, and without notice, immediately. We understand that only a minority of older users are sex offenders, but you must understand that we cannot tell which – we can only delete all to make the site safe and we apologise for that. However, we are following the law and you cannot think we are wrong for doing that.

Basically, there is the the new legislation requiring sex offenders to have their details held by the government (Under the “But we would never let that data leave officialdom” clause we know so well) and there is a blindingly stupid proposal to require social network sites to validate against a pre-existing list of known email addresses belonging to sex offenders. The original database is scary in and of itself, I have enough trouble getting off SMS spam lists, and those have a documented legal procedure. If your address – physical or metaworld – is in that database you’re many degrees of screwed, but the blindingly stupid addition of requiring email addresses?

I have currently got three email addresses I look at on a day to day basis. Without thinking too long about it, I can think of a dozen that will get to me eventually, plus another few that won’t anymore (like my old uni address, or my Evolving Media or BrowserAngel addresses) I could have signed up for another dozen in the time it’s taken you to skim-read this article.

Not only that, but this proposal is just that, a proposal yet to go though the bad ideas filter. Now, the social network providing this story, which is known as “Faceparty” and I’m not going to link to, claims they were dived upon by “A gang of paedophiles” who attacked their younger audience. If I was uncharitable, and I’m tending towards so, I’d wonder if this actually happened, or is a pre-emptive strike, or – even less charitably – if it’s all an attempt to get people to realise they exist. Browsing their site as a non-user, it does appear that they enjoy pushing a reputation for “edgy”. Their front page featured article links though to a page using the current-most-forbidden word (Four letters, begins with C, Rhymes with stunt, as in “Publicity”) as punctuation, and it’s all… very…

…interesting…

Of course, it’s entirely plausable that this is a genuine over-reaction to a genuine problem they were having with paedophiles and my cynical analisis that it’s all a publicity drive under the pretext of chopping down a magic tree could be entirely off the mark, but I’m not linking to them anyway.