Social networking powerhouse MySpace has reached an agreement with 49 states’ attorneys general to implement a wide range of online safety principles designed to enhance the safety of minors using the site. Among other changes, MySpace will set up a registry that parents can use to prohibit their children from setting up an online profile, and will change the default privacy setting for profiles of 16 and 17 year-olds on the service from “public” to “private,” so they can only be contacted by people they know. MySpace and the states are also hoping their Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety will be adopted as a standard by the wider social networking industry.
“This is an industry-wide challenge and we must all work together to create a safer Internet,” said MySpace’s chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam, in a statement. “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.”
Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have come under increasing scrutiny from both prosecutors and lawmakers following incidents in which young members of the online communities have been contacted and victimized by adult predators, many posing as minors on the services. Key to the states’ agreement with MySpace is the social networking site working to implement age verification systems.
Broadly, the principles outline site and functionality changes designed to protect minors’ online privacy and prevent them from being contacted by adults they don’t already know in real life. MySpace has also pledges to improve its education efforts for members, parents, and educators about having a safe online experience—this includes setting up an Independent Examiner for a two year period to evaluate MySpace’s response to consumer complaints. MySpace will also lock down minors’ ability to browse certain portions of the site, see advertisements for alcohol or tobacco products, and let them set their profiles as “private” to users over age 18. MySpace also promises to block access to adult materials via its service and quickly review content uploads for inappropriate material.
The one state that didn’t sign on to the agreement? Texas.
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