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MySpace Agrees To Toughen Security For Young Users

Date: 1/16/2008 11:47:02 AM

Under pressure from 49 states and the District of Columbia, Rupert Murdochs social networking site has agreed to implement new measures to protect young users from sexual predators.

The state attorneys general said MySpace has agreed to consider a common abusereporting mechanism to provide a means to report abuse on every contentcontaining page, allowing users to categorize the type of offensive content at issue via a dropdown menu.

MySpace, owned by Murdochs News Corp., will try to acknowledge reports made via the reporting mechanism within 24 hours and will report back to consumers within 72 hours of receiving complaints.

MySpace also agreed to create a task force to explore and develop age and identity verification technology.

A coalition of states, working through the National Association of Attorneys General, have advocated age and identity verification as vital tools to protect children using social networking sites from online sexual predators and inappropriate material.

"The Internet can be a dangerous place for children and young adults, with sexual predators surfing social networking sites in search of potential victims, and cyber bullies sending threatening and anonymous messages," New Jersey Attorney General Ann Milgram said.

It was reported last week that a federal grand jury was issuing subpoenas to MySpace and others involved in the case of 13yearold Megan Meier.

Megan, who lived in the small community of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, a halfhour drive north of St. Louis, hanged herself in October 2006 because of a fraudulent relationship on

"In New Jersey, we developed a Report Abuse icon with online links to specifically empower visitors to social networking sites with the ability to swiftly report abusive and potentially criminal behavior," Milgram said.

"Our icon, which was adopted by MyYearbook and the five social networking sites of Community Connect, is distinctive and appears on every contentcontaining page. Its an important tool to protect kids and we urge MySpace to join this cooperative effort to make social networking sites safer," Milgram said.

"Were joining forces to find the most effective ways to keep young children off these sites and to protect the kids who do use them," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. "This agreement sets a new standard for social networking sites that have been quick to grow but slow to recognize their responsibility to keep kids safe."

"MySpace is pleased to work with the states on Internet safety matters including the development of a standardized reporting abuse mechanism," said MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam.

Other sites invited
MySpace said it will invite other social networking sites, age and identify verification experts, child protection groups and technology companies to participate in the task force on age and identity verification technology.

The task force will report back to the attorneys general every three months and issue a formal report with findings and recommendations at the end of 2008.

Other specific changes and policies that MySpace agreed to develop include: allowing parents to submit their childrens email addresses so MySpace can prevent anyone using those email addresses from setting up profiles making the default setting "private" for profiles of 16 and 17yearolds promising to respond within 72 hours to inappropriate content complaints and committing more staff and/or resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.

The agreement culminates nearly two years of discussions between MySpace and the attorneys generals, who were led by Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, cochairmen of a National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) executive committee on social networking sites.

Other measures
MySpace also agreed to work to the following:

• Strengthen software identifying underage users

• Retain a contractor to better identify and expunge inappropriate images

• Obtain and constantly update a list of pornographic web sites and regularly sever any links between them and MySpace

• Implement changes making it harder for adults to contact children

• Dedicate meaningful resources to educating children and parents about online safety

• Create a closed "high school" section for users under 18.

The settlement follows extended investigations by a number of states into cases where young computer users were exposed to sexual predators in the MySpace community – sometimes agreeing to meet a person they met online.

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