January 14, 2008 By Gina M. Scott
The popular Internet social networking site MySpace has agreed to significant steps to better protect children on its Web site, including both the creation of a task force to explore and develop age and identity verification technology and as well as creation of a way to quickly report online abuses.
In an agreement with a government coalition on social networking safety announced today, MySpace acknowledged the important role of this technology in social networking safety and agreed to find and develop online identity authentication tools. The 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.
MySpace has agreed to consider a common abuse reporting mechanism to provide a means to report abuse on every content-containing page, allowing users to categorize the type of offensive content at issue via a drop-down menu. MySpace 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 will hire a contractor to compile a registry of e-mail addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their child's access to the site, and will bar anyone using a submitted e-mail address from signing in or creating a profile.
Under the agreement, MySpace, with support from the attorneys general, will create and lead an Internet Safety Technical Task Force to explore and develop age and identity verification tools for social networking Web sites. MySpace will invite other social networking sites, age and identify verification experts, child protection groups and technology companies to participate in the task force. 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.
"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 Anne Milgram said. "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."
"MySpace is pleased to work with Attorney General Milgram on Internet safety matters including the development of a standardized reporting abuse mechanism, an area where she is a true leader," said MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam. "MySpace currently provides users an easy process for reporting abusive conduct by offering a report abuse link at the bottom of every profile on MySpace, and we will explore additional models and proposals to determine how to best to empower and protect our members online."
MySpace also agreed to work to:
"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," said North Carolina Attorney General Cooper.