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10/16/2007
05:46 PM
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Facebook Agrees To Police Pornography And Predators

The social networking site said it will comply with an independent safety and security examination to report on Facebook's compliance for two years.

After pressure from its users and law enforcement, Facebook this week agreed to implement new measures to protect its members from sexual predators, obscene content, and harassment.

The settlement agreement announced By New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Monday requires Facebook to respond promptly to complaints about nudity, pornography, harassment, or unwanted contact with 24 hours through the abuse@facebook.com e-mail address. It also requires Facebook to allow an Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE), approved by the New York State Attorney General, to report on Facebook's compliance for two years.

Last month, Cuomo began investigating representations made by Facebook about how the site protected its users from sexual predators.

In a letter dated September 24th, Cuomo said that investigators posing as underage users found evidence that minors are targeted by sexual predators on Facebook, that pornographic and obscene content is common on the site, and that Facebook staff dealt with complaints inconsistently and slowly.

"Social networking sites, popular among young people, have quickly gained members and appeal, but also act as a magnet for those who would prey on the young," said Attorney General Cuomo in a statement. "Our agreement with Facebook offers a new model of cooperative action that balances the freedom offered by the internet with the necessary protections for children traveling on the information superhighway."

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that privacy and security have always been a priority at Facebook and that his company is committed to keeping Facebook safe.

Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer of Facebook, promised in a statement to develop new ways to enhance user safety beyond the terms of the agreement. "In addition to the terms of the agreement laid out by Attorney General Cuomo, Facebook will continue to develop sophisticated safety technology and offer users extensive privacy controls so they can make their information available only to the people they choose," he said.

In conjunction with the announcement, Cuomo asked parents to step up and take some responsibility too. He advised Internet users to exercise caution when posting information online and warned that once posted, information can't be taken back. He recommended that users of social networks avail themselves of privacy controls and that install security software for filtering and monitoring online sessions.

While Cuomo's tips, like "watch out for unsolicited e-mail," may seem obvious to the technically savvy, they nonetheless bear repeating. Quite a few Internet users out there are still opening unsolicited messages and responding to unsolicited offers, making the Internet less secure for everyone. And no doubt many parents have no idea what their kids are doing online.

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