In their Dateline series, "To Catch a Predator," NBC teamed up with an online organization called Perverted Justice, paying them over $100000. Many people have raised questions about the ethical and legal implications of such a partnership. However, a closer look at the Perverted Justice group itself may be even more disturbing.
According to their site (www.perverted-justice.com), "Concerned citizens from all walks of life who saw this problem got together and formed civilian watchdog group 'Perverted Justice', a website dedicated to finding and exposing those users in regional chatrooms with predatory tendencies towards children."
Sounds great, right? But they don't always stop there. Sometimes they also post information about the accused's innocent family members, claiming that they're trying to raise awareness. For example, one Perverted Justice member using the screen name "Doodler" posted this about the family of a man recently convicted of soliciting a minor online.
"Soooo, the past few weeks his daughter has been 'sharing' in class (I'm friends with her teacher and my daughter is in the same class so I hear EVERYTHING-ha, we've been keeping our ears open). His daughter was talking about family in town, a big yard sale last weekend, and her dance recital that was coming up. She listed all the people that would be at her dance recital and didn't even mention her dad. Another student asked why her Dad wouldn't be there and she said, 'I'm not allowed to talk about it.' Hmmmmmm, she knows something but I'm not sure how much she knows. OK, so then I ran into his wife today at a birthday party. We talked for about 20 minutes. She was talking about her hubby like he was at home mowing the lawn... I asked if they had travel plans this summer and she said they were 'just hanging out at home, just the usual trips to Dallas.' She doesn't know that I know about her perverted husband, but we do and we are spreading the word. I think people should know about this man since he does have a daughter and she has friends. I don't want him to ever be able to touch any of them!!!"
Group members also run a related site at www.corrupted-justice.net dedicated to attacking people who criticize Perverted Justice. The posts on the Corrupted-justice.net site make "Doodler" seem almost classy. Members post personal information about critics, and occasionally make crude attempts at Google bombing by posting the person's name repeatedly, along with words like "pedophile."
Although I was unable to locate NBC's code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalistcs (SPJ) has their code online at www.spj.org/ethics_code.asp . Here are a few of the guidelines:
* Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
* Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
* Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
* Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
* Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
* Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
* Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
* Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.