MySpace Creates Guidelines For Social Networking - InformationWeek

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1/14/2008
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MySpace Creates Guidelines For Social Networking

The company's partnership with 49 state governments includes a 24-hour hot line for law enforcement and blocks people under 14 years old from creating profiles.

MySpace on Monday announced its participation in a task force designed to increase safety on social networking sites as part of a partnership with 49 state governments.

The agreement comes after several states criticized MySpace for its failure to block sex offenders from its site. Since then, MySpace has cooperated with investigators, identified tens of thousands of offenders, and increased its safety measures.

The agreement establishes a "Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety" document and urges site operators to incorporate safety features in four categories: Site Design and Functionality; Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children; Law Enforcement Cooperation; and Online Safety Task Force. The guidelines ask social sites to review all images, videos, and group content; make all profiles of 14- and 15-year-old users private so adult strangers cannot contact youngsters; and delete registered sex offenders' profiles.

MySpace has already taken those steps, and it plans to make profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds private as well. The company said it will also improve technology that prohibits people under 14 from creating profiles.

The principles also call for social networking sites to contribute to Internet safety education for parents, educators, and children. MySpace has begun to offer tips and has created a public safety service announcement for parents. The social networking site is also creating free software to enhance safety.

MySpace said it will consider creating a child e-mail registry that could help parents prevent their children from creating accounts on MySpace or other social networking sites. MySpace also promised to increase communication with people who voice complaints.

The site also created a 24-hour hot line for law enforcement. The attorneys general said that should serve as a model for other sites.

Finally, MySpace plans to create an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical Task Force to improve Internet safety through identity authentication and other methods.

"The Task Force will explore all new technologies that can help make users more safe and secure including age verification," MySpace said in a written announcement. "The Task Force will include Internet businesses, identity authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics and technology companies."

The task force will also include a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Ernie Allen, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, praised MySpace for efforts to improve security, privacy, and identity authentication.

"Today millions of teens use social networking sites," Allen said in a prepared statement. "The collaborative effort between MySpace and the attorneys general is a major step that will make using social networking sites much safer for teens."

Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer at MySpace, thanked the attorneys general for their cooperation in improving safety on the Internet.

"This is an industry-wide challenge, and we must all work together to create a safer Internet," Nigam said Monday, as MySpace and several attorneys general gathered for a news conference in New York City. "The principles we have adopted set forth what the industry needs to strive towards to provide a safer online experience for teens, and we look forward to sharing our ongoing safety innovations with other companies."

Attorneys general from across the United States now want other social networking sites and Internet providers to adopt the principles. That move represents a public relations coup for MySpace, which is now upheld as an example for others to follow.

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