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Maine Announces Nationwide Agreement With MySpace to Boost Social Networking Safety
January 14, 2008
In a victory for Maine’s children, Attorney General Rowe and 49 other attorneys general today announced that MySpace has agreed to significant steps to better protect children on its web site, including creation of a broad-based task force to explore and develop age and identity verification technology.
MySpace acknowledged in the agreement the important role of this technology in social networking safety and agreed to find and develop on-line identity authentication tools. The attorneys general advocate age and identity verification, calling it vital to better protecting children using social networking sites from on-line sexual predators and inappropriate material.
Other specific changes and policies that MySpace agreed to develop include: allowing parents to submit their children’s emails so MySpace can prevent anyone using those emails from setting up profiles, making the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds, 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 general. The attorneys general were led by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, co-chairmen of executive committee consisting of Connecticut, North Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The states pushed MySpace for changes after sexual predators repeatedly used the site to victimize children.
Attorney General Rowe said, “Predators are actively using social networking sites to groom young unsuspecting victims. The safeguards required by this agreement will help keep children safer online, but we must do more.” Rowe said parents must monitor their children’s online activity and establish rules for meeting people online. “If a parent warns a child not to talk to strangers the child meets in a park, the same rule should apply to strangers the child meets online,” Rowe said.
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.
MySpace also will hire a contractor to compile a registry of email addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their child’s access to the site. MySpace will bar anyone using a submitted email addresses from signing in or creating a profile.
MySpace also agreed to:
• 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 on-line safety. • Review its icon to report abuse to determine whether it should be modified or replaced; • Create a closed “high school” section for users under 18.
The Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety recognizes that an ongoing industry effort is required to keep pace with the latest technological developments and develop additional ways to protect teens, including online identity authentication tools.
David Loughran, (207) 626-8577