MySpace Plans Adult Restrictions to Protect Teen Users
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
MySpace.com is planning new restrictions on how adults may contact its younger users in response to growing concerns about the safety of teenagers who frequent the popular online social networking site.
The site already prohibits children 13 and younger from setting up accounts and displays only partial profiles for those registered as 14 or 15 years old unless the person viewing the profile is on the teen's list of friends.
Under the changes expected to be announced today, MySpace users 18 and older will no longer be able to request to join a 14- or 15-year-old's friends' list unless they know the youth's e-mail address or full name.
Any user will still be able to view partial profiles of younger users by searching for other attributes, such as display name. The difference is that currently, adults can then request to be added to a youth's list to view the full profile; that option will disappear for users 18 and older.
However, MySpace has no mechanism for verifying that users submit their true age when registering. That means adults could sign up as teens and request to join a 14-year-old's list of friends.
Driven largely by word of mouth, MySpace has grown astronomically since its launch in January 2004 and is now second in the United States among all Web sites by total page views, behind only Yahoo Inc., according to ComScore Media Metrix. The site -- which offers message boards, games and Web logs -- currently has some 87 million users, about a quarter registered as minors, according to the company.
MySpace, which was bought last year by News Corp. for $580 million, has recently become a target of parents, schools and law enforcement officials concerned that teens who visit MySpace can fall victim to sexual predators.
This week, a 14-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old user sued MySpace and News Corp., seeking $30 million in damages. MySpace officials say the new restrictions have been long planned and are unrelated to recent events.
The changes follow a number of safety-related measures that include the hiring of a former federal prosecutor as online safety chief. MySpace already has developed safety tips for parents and children, and it monitors the site around the clock.