MySpace to Carry Amber Alerts

Popular social networking Web site MySpace is looking to improve its image and project itself as a positive thing in young people’s online lives: beginning today, MySpace is working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to carry online versions of Amber alerts, notifying MySpace members of missing and possibly kidnapped children in their area.

MySpace says the Amber alerts will be updated constantly; when the NCMEC is notified that an Amber alert has been issued, MySpace will relay the Amber alert information to all site users within the zip codes where the Amber alert was issued. The alerts will appear as a small text box at the top of a MySpace profile, and offer users a way to get additional information—such as a photo and description of the missing child, suspected abductor(s), or a vehicle which may be involved. Users who believe they may have information about the alert will be urged to call emergency services via 911.

“AMBER Alerts on MySpace give users nationwide the opportunity to help in the recovery of an abducted child in their area—just by logging on,” said Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer, MySpace. “We applaud NCMEC and will continue working with industry leaders such as Ernie Allen and his team to implement creative programs that share the goal of protecting teens.”

MySpace also announced two additional changes to its operations designed to further protect its users. For the first time, MySpace will begin requiring users who register with MySpace to provide a valid email address, and will be required to confirm their registration via email. MySpace had, in the past, resisted requiring email verification of user registrations because spam and junk email filters notoriously flag confirmation messages. MySpace is also expanding “over/under” protections offered to its younger users, providing an option for users under 18 years of age from being contacted by MySpace users over age 18…although the mechanism relies on users’ self-reported, unconfirmed ages.

MySpace’s decision to carry Amber alerts might raise the company’s profile amongst groups concerned the site is something of an online haven for stalkers and sexual predators eager to gain access to the sites famously young-skewing user base. The company has recently been sued by parents whose children were sexually abused by adults they encountered through the social networking site.

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