By Karen Freifeld
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The social network site MySpace said yesterday that it has agreed with 49 states and the District to adopt new online safety standards to better protect children from sexual predators.
MySpace, a unit of News Corp., agreed to add safety features to its Web site, including better technology to screen out underage users, and to develop age and identity verification technology. The accord was negotiated with the attorneys general of the 49 states and the District.
MySpace and Facebook have come under attack by regulators for not doing enough to police their sites to shield minors from predators. The states began to investigate the sites' operations more than a year ago, and several subpoenas were sent to MySpace over the matter.
"It is a milestone agreement because it can lead to an industry gold standard for social networking safety," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in an interview. "It also opens a new frontier to explore and develop better technology to protect kids."
Texas is the only state not included in yesterday's agreement, according to Blumenthal.
Blumenthal said the states would ask all social networking sites to adopt the code. MySpace encouraged others to follow suit.
MySpace said it would review every image posted to its Web site, strengthening the technology that enforces the minimum customer age of 14, and that it would default user profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds to a private category.
MySpace also is removing sex offenders from its community, working with law enforcement, and improving its communication when it learns of abusive or inappropriate content.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a July report that MySpace had 29,000 registered sex offenders as users. Blumenthal said in October that number was 32,000.
The company has been providing lists of sex offenders whose memberships in the site are supposedly being purged. The attorneys general had issued subpoenas for names of convicted sex offenders who have profiles on MySpace.
In October, Facebook settled a New York probe of how it protects minors from sexual content. At the time, other states said the accord didn't go far enough.
New York's settlement called for a third-party monitor for Facebook and 24-hour response time to user complaints about nudity, pornography or harassment.