MySpace Deal Struck By Florida Attorney General For Greater Social Networking Safety

LAWFUEL – Legal Announcement Service-
~ National agreement will include the creation of a task force to explore
possibilities of age and identity verification technology ~

TALLAHASSEE, FL – In a great step forward for cybersafety, Attorney
General Bill McCollum today announced that Florida, 48 other states and
the District of Columbia have reached an agreement with MySpace to further
enhance the safety of the popular social networking site. The agreement
includes many design and policy changes that will better protect youth
from harmful images and unwanted contact from adults.

“Unfortunately, cybercrime is very prevalent on the internet, and I
commend MySpace and its parent company, News Corporation, for working
diligently to protect our children,” said Attorney General McCollum. “We
must take every opportunity to make the internet a safer place for
children, and I encourage other social networking sites to adopt many of
the design changes announced by MySpace today.”

MySpace acknowledged the important role of this technology in social
networking safety and agreed to explore the potential for developing
on-line identity authentication tools. The Attorneys General of the
participating states have said age and identity verification is vital to
better protect children from on-line sexual predators and inappropriate
material. National statistics show every day, 77 million children are on
the internet and one out of every seven between the ages of 10 and 17 will
be sexually solicited online.

“MySpace applauds Attorney General McCollum’s leadership in the realm
of internet safety. Florida was one of the first states in the nation to
enact laws requiring convicted sex offenders to register their email
addresses so social networking sites can block them from their
communities,” said Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer for MySpace.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Attorney General McCollum to
make the internet safer for all of Florida’s youth.”

MySpace, with support from the Attorneys General, will create an
Internet Safety Technical Task Force to explore age and identity
verification tools. The task force will include representatives from other
social networking sites, age and identify verification experts, child
protection groups and technology companies. The task force will report
back to the Attorneys General every three months and will issue a formal
report with findings and recommendations at the end of 2008.

Other specific changes and policies that MySpace agreed to develop
include making the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and
17-year-olds and creating a closed “high school” section for users under
18. MySpace will also compile a registry of email addresses provided by
parents who want to restrict their child’s access to the site, and the
company will prohibit anyone using a submitted email address from signing
in or creating a profile.

MySpace has also agreed to make the following changes to further
promote the safe use of its site:

– 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 those sites and MySpace;
– Implement changes making it harder for adults to contact children;
– Respond within 72 hours to inappropriate content complaints;
– Review its icon to report abuse to determine whether it should be
modified or replaced;
– Dedicate meaningful resources to educating children and parents about
on-line safety; and
– Commit more staff and/or resources to review and classify photographs
and discussion groups.

Today’s agreement culminates nearly two years of discussions between
MySpace and the Attorneys General.

With the Attorneys General, MySpace developed and released a joint
statement on key principles of social networking safety, recognizing that
an ongoing industry effort is required to keep pace with the latest
technological developments and to develop additional ways to protect
teens, including online identity authentication tools. The principles of
social networking fall into the following categories:

– Site Design and Functionality will incorporate safety initiatives
that MySpace has already implemented as well as initiatives it will work
to implement in the coming months. Examples of safety features MySpace
already has in place include reviewing every image and video uploaded to
the site, reviewing social groups, making the profiles of 14- and
15-year-old users automatically private to protect them from being
contacted by unknown adults and deleting registered sex offenders’
accounts from MySpace.

– Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children will include
the meaningful resources MySpace has already devoted to internet safety
education. Among these resources are a new online safety public service
announcement targeting parents and free parental monitoring software that
is under development. MySpace will explore the establishment of a
children’s email registry that will empower parents to prevent their child
from having access to MySpace or other any other social networking sites.
MySpace will also increase its communications with consumers who report or
complain about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

– Law Enforcement Cooperation will be enhanced as involved parties
continue working together to enhance the ability of law enforcement
officials who are investigating and prosecuting internet crimes.

– An Online Safety Task Force will be organized by MySpace, with
support of the Attorneys General, to function as an industry-wide Internet
Safety Technical Task Force. The task force will develop online safety
tools including a review of identity authentication tools and will include
internet businesses, identity authentication experts, non-profit
organizations, academics and technology companies.

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