Under pressure from 49 states and the District of Columbia, Rupert Murdochs
social networking site MySpace.com 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
"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 MySpace.com.
"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.
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
• 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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