At a ceremony marking “Safer Internet Day”, the European Commission has inked a deal with 17 leading social networking sites designed to cut back on “cyberbullying”— children harassing and intimidating other kids online—as well as better protect kids’ online privacy and safety. The idea is to make online social networking sites safer, and suppress “grooming” by adults seeking to befriend minors online, often with the intention of sexually abusing them.
Use of social networking sites has increased more than 35 percent in Europe in the last year, with about 42 million regular users currently online. By 2012, the EU expects that number will more than double.
Under the agreement, social networking sites will ensure that profiles of minors are not searchable via the Web site or external search engines, the profiles for under-18 users are set to “private” by default, that privacy control options are more prominent and accessible on the sites, and that users can report abuses with a single click.
“It is an important step forward toward making our children’s clicks on social networking sites safer in Europe,” said EU Commissioner for Information Society Viviane Reding, in a statement. “Social networking has enormous potential to flourish in Europe, to help boost our economy and make our society more interactive—as long as children and teenagers have the trust and the right tools to remain safe when making new ‘friends’ and sharing personal details online.”
The social networking services signing the agreement include Facebook, MySpace, DailyMotion, Bebo, Google & YouTube, MIcosoft, Habbo Hotel, Hyves, as well as Arto, Giovani.it, Nasza-klaza.pl, Netlog, One.lt, Skyrock, StudiViz, Yahoo Europe, and Zap.lu.
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