Sunday, August 5, 2007

Disney Responds To My Post

Apparently there may be some apprehension over at the "House of Mouse" about their recent purchase. I received an email from the VP of Corporate Communications "chastising" me for not calling Disney (DIS) first.

I have omitted the email addresses assuming those who really want to find them will be able to.

From: Spelich, John
Sent: Friday, August 03, 2007 4:25 PM
Subject: Shame you didn't call


It’s a shame you wrote your column today on “Stockmasters” about Disney and Club Penguin without calling us so you could understand the steps we take to protect children online.

Disney is, and always has been, committed to creating a safe environment for kids and families online, and Club Penguin shares this commitment. We intend to immediately begin combining best practices from both companies to further enhance the safety of the Club Penguin experience, including the continued aggressive use of filtering and monitoring of the site’s chat function to prevent the sharing of personally identifiable information.

We are already the no. 1 destination on the web for kids and families with (more than 20 million unique visitors a month). And we have had a similar multiplayer game, Toontown Online, in place for four years.


John W. Spelich
Vice President -- Corporate Communications
The Walt Disney Internet Group

My Reply

----- Original Message -----
From: Todd Sullivan
To: Spelich, John
Sent: Fri Aug 03 18:08:27 2007
Subject: RE: Shame you didn't call


I did not call because I have no doubt you are taking tremendous steps to eliminate a “worse case scenario” and I never alluded to the fact you may not be in the post. BUT, I doubt even you would claim “it cannot happen here”. My post is from a investing perspective and the downside here far outweighs the advantages of having it.

All the safeguards in the world cannot stop a committed pervert if they really want to find a way….


His response to this was a simple "that's not a good answer". So, should I have called? No. Why? Because unless he can guarantee me "it cannot happen here" (he was given the chance and wisely did not do it) then my thesis stands that the risks this pose to the Disney brand far outweigh any potential bottom line increase it may produce.

Let assume Disney has gone far and above every other social networking site out there in it's effort to protect children. I will go ahead in advance and grant them that they have and that the site is the safest out there. If history tells us anything and Mr. Spelich himself admitted through his omission of any answer to my statement, nothing is 100%. The Titanic sunk, the Jets and Joe Namath beat the Colts, the US hockey kids beat the Russians, the Red Sox came back 0-3 and beat the Yanks in the "House Ruth Built" and the Soviet Union did actually crumble under it's own failures.

My point in the original post still stands that Disney can be 99.99999% perfect in this case and still lose, big time. All it will take is one singe example and as I told Mr. Spelich, "the 20/20's and Dateline's of the world will be all over you folks". They will take the exception and lead us to believe it is either pervasive or "will happen to our kids" at any moment. It is what they do, make the oddities the norm for ratings. Whether it is right or wrong of them irrelevant in as much as that is what they do and the world we live in. Disney needs to recognize this. Their reputation will not get them a free pass here but just make them a bigger target. I can just see Dateline producers now sitting there setting up dummy accounts trying to lure kids so they can break the story and make the splashy headline.

I guess if we made a list like Ben Franklin used to do of "pro's and con's" of a decision, can there be enough "pro's" for Disney to offset the potential "a pedophile meets and abuses a child through our site"?

I pray it never happens but based on the internet's history in this area, they will be out there trying..

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