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Open Letter to FOX News on Report dubbed "PlayStation Porn-able"

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Message J R
Click here to go directly to my open letter to FOX News and the Minnesota Department of Education (same page). While plowing around on, I found a video clip of a FOX News broadcast (FOX News Philadelphia) which focuses on the Sony Playstation Portable's (PSP) ability to access wireless, online networks. It warned parents that if given a PSP, their kids may "open Pandora's Box [cue crazy, party music at 1:01 in video below] ", gaining access to pornography. The report focuses on an incident in Minnesota where a boy accessed pornography at school through the PSP's wireless internet access. Purely sensational in reporting style, the FOX News reporter shows semi-nude, pornographic images, employing excellent propaganda techniques to bring about excitement and fear in their viewers, zooming in and out of porn images, then over to a page on building bombs (1:06 in the video below), then up to a search for the Ku Klux Klan (KKK at 1:07), and ending in a swift motion to a page with a swastika. FOX News places sole blame on the PSP for allowing users access. They play eerie music, careful to zoom in on the offended mother of the boy as she rants about the offense PSP has committed against her (1:09): "If it's supposed to be made for kids you shouldn't be able to get access to this stuff." Have a look for yourself:

Click here if video fails to play.
FOX News reporter Robin Taylor, of course, did not bother to point out that the PSP is not made for any one age group. It is a small, powerful computer designed to run interactive, often multiplayer, gaming software. Many of the games released for the PSP are specifically made for adults and most hit, "R" rated movies come out in PSP format. There has never been any indication on behalf of Sony that these games and movies are intended specifically for children. It is also funny to note that during the set-up for the FOX News report, when showing clips of the games that are, presumably, OK for children to play, they show several first-person shooters* and racing games featuring elaborate vehicle combat and spectacular explosions. Does FOX News think these games are OK for children to play? *Games where the object is to kill other people with guns, showed from first-person perspective All sensationalism and poor journalism aside, it seems abundantly clear that FOX News completely misses the boat on laying blame: the mother, the child and the school are at fault, not the child's PSP, which merely provides a service. The mother is at fault for allowing her child unrestricted access to a powerful gaming system with wireless internet capabilities. Yes, blaming the parent may seem like a hackneyed argument, but in this case, it is quite valid. As much as that mother complains that she had no idea her son would be able to access pornography with his PSP, it is her responsibility to be an informed consumer when purchasing a product, and Sony kept the PSP's wireless capabilities no secret. In fact, the PSP's wireless internet capabilities are a selling point for the product, as even a cursory glance at any PSP ad will show.
Ignorance of the common term "wifi" for wireless networking is no excuse either, since a simple Google search of "sony psp wifi" rendered a Wikipedia article on the first search page which clearly explains the full range of PSP features as only a site run by obsessive, technology geeks can.
Clearly, the mother is at fault for being an ignorant consumer. There is, however, one more entity at fault: the school. You might wonder: How is the school at fault? The CHILD snuck onto THE SCHOOL'S wireless network! This is true, and certainly the mother needs to discipline her child, but it is abundantly clear [PERK UP, FOX NEWS, THIS IS THE REAL SCOOP] that the school left a wireless network unguarded by fire-walls or logon requirements, WITHOUT ANY NETWORK PORNOGRAPHY BLOCKERS. This means it would not matter if a child were on a PSP or a lap-top computer; if there are no login requirements or pornography filters, any child can gain access to pornography from almost any wireless device near the school. FOX News' blaming the PSP is the equivalent of the school turning around and blaming its network for doing what it was implemented to do: provide online access. Without any restrictions from the mother and the school, respectively, the PSP and the school's network worked marvelously, allowing the unrestricted child to view whatever he wanted. Regardless, FOX News took this as an opportunity to turn its report into a broad, sweeping warning against the perils of the internet, even noting that "it doesn't make any difference whether they're portable or played on a computer in your home". Yes, FOX News... that's very good! Parents should try to regulate the content their children see on the internet. Thanks. If FOX News had not told me, I would have never known there was porn, bomb-making instructions and racist propaganda on the internet. It's not like there are weekly episodes of NBC Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" Â- a show that crossed the line from public service to sadism long ago by telling would-be pedophiles that they are "free to go" while knowing that as soon as they leave they will be tackled by armed, gun-drawn police officers. If these would-be "predators" are so dangerous, why would the police wait until after Dateline gets its interview before arresting them? But I digress. Not to be up-staged, of course, FOX News' Robin Taylor reports, "The computer crimes unit of the New Jersey State Police is launching a full-scale assault on pedophiles who are using gaming devices to reach children."
Finally, after FOX News gets its ostentatious licks, they deliver the only message that really matters, the message that could have saved 3 1/2 minutes of air time for more important news and eliminated the need for me to write this article and the letters that follow (4:11): "As a parent, there are some things you can do to protect your kids. At home you can limit what comes into your household by setting up parental controls with your internet provider. You can also limit what plays on a PSP with a password. Beyond that, the experts say, you've gotta [sic] talk to your children."
WELL THANK GOD! I feel safer. Below is an open letter I sent to the station manager of FOX News 29 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I encourage anyone to resend this letter on his or her own behalf. If you plan to email them, send it to, subject line "Programming Department". Below it is the letter I sent to Commissioner Alice Seagren of the Minnesota Department of Education (in lieu of the actual school district, since the report did not disclose the Minnesota city):
November 10, 2006
FOX 29: Station Manager
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Station Manager:
Your station, FOX News 29 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, aired a report about the use of a Sony Play Station Portable (PSP) by a young child to view pornographic images while at school in Minnesota. The specific city in Minnesota was not reported.
Your reporter, Robin Taylor, compiled a sensationalist aggregation of clips of violent video games, pornographic images and peculiar online queries ("ku klux klan" and "babes"). Yes, the potential perils that children can find on the internet are very real and very serious, but the scope of the story in which your station partook was unnecessarily broad, serving only to inspire fear in your viewers. Furthermore, your station's stylistic choice of fear-mongering led your reporter to blame the technology in the PSP and the PSP itself rather than the three real parties at fault: the child, the mother and the school.
The child is, of course, partly to blame for accessing pornography in the first place. The mother bears responsibility for allowing her child unregulated access to a powerful, interactive gaming machine. The machine is marketed to people of all ages, not just children, and has games appropriate for all age groups. Furthermore, the PSP's wireless capabilities are a large selling point for Sony, as it makes clear in its PSP advertisement and system specs. It was the mother's responsibility to learn this before she let her child use the PSP.
Finally, the school is at fault because it left a wireless network online, apparently without any sort of access regulation (such as log in requirements) or content filter to prevent anyone on its network from gaining access to pornography in the first place. The child could have just as easily accessed pornography from a desk-top or laptop computer, or almost any device with wireless, browsing capabilities within the area of the school's wireless network.
I sincerely hope that your station informed the school in Minnesota that its wireless network needs to be secured. It is your station's responsibility to do so. This is especially true after referencing so many internet technology and security experts for a report that used the incident with the child as its centerpiece. Your reporter said, "As a parent... You can also limit what plays on a PSP with a password." Does this not also apply to the network at school?
It is also your station's responsibility to at least report this pivotal detail in your station's story.
I do not believe the sole responsibility for this report lies with its reporter, Robin Taylor. FOX News has become quite notorious for the production of sensationalist news or "infotainment", as it is often dubbed. I do not doubt that the culture of the FOX Newsroom indicates to all employees that similar, sensationalist reports are expected.
As presented, your station's report places sole focus on the negative qualities of a video-game console, which is, ultimately, a tool. I wonder if a report by your station involving a child and a gun would be equally heavy-handed against the particular brand of gun, especially if it were particularly small and portable, like the PSP.

Justin Raines
Commissioner Alice Seagren
Minnesota Department of Education
1500 Highway 36 West
Roseville, MN 55113

Commissioner Alice Seagren:
Attached is a letter I sent to FOX News 29 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in regards to a report they did on an incident in a Minnesota school that involved a child's access of obscene materials through a wireless gaming device at school, using the school's wireless network. FOX News 29 did not disclose the city where this event occurred. The station also did not disclose whether or not the school has since secured its network.
This is no doubt a concern to you.
If you would like to contact FOX News 29, I show their address and phone number below:
FOX 29: Programming Department
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 982-5500

Justin Raines
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Original Article courtesy of Virtual Citizens. Virtual Citizens provides free content to global media.
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Open Letter to FOX News on Report dubbed "PlayStation Porn-able"

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