MySpace, the huge social networking site that attracts millions of users announced Monday (January 14, 2008) that it will make changes designed to help prevent sexual predators from misusing the site. This was done with the agreement of more than 45 states.
According to an article from the Associated Press, the agreement was announced by various attorney generals from New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and others. The article states:
Several states’ attorneys general said in a statement that the huge social networking Web site has agreed to add several protections and participate in a working group to develop new technologies, including a way to verify the ages of users. Other social networking sites will be invited to participate.
There have been well publicised issues with fraud, fake identification and a variety of inappropriate uses by those who would prey on our children. A clear example of issues that our youth can face was the 2006 web suicide reported in an earlier blog.
“The Internet can be a dangerous place for children and young adults, with sexual predators surfing social networking sites in search of potential victims and cyber bullies sending threatening and anonymous messages,” said New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram.
“We thank the attorneys general for a thoughtful and constructive conversation on Internet safety,” MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a written statement. “This is an industrywide challenge, and we must all work together to create a safer Internet.”
MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., will also accept independent monitoring and changes the structure of its site.
MySpace agreed to the following changes (to name a few):
- Parents can submit their children’s e-mail addresses to MySpace to prevent anyone from misusing the e-mail address to set up fake profiles
- The default setting for 16 and 17 year olds will be marked “private”
- Strengthen the software to identify underage users
- Add more staff and resources to classify photos and discussion groups
- Respond to complaints about inappropriate content within 72 hours
- Create a high school section for users under 18 years of age
Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have come under intense scrutiny as it has almost become a playground for sexual predators. It has been reported that New York officials created (fake) profiles as 12 to 14 year olds and were quickly contacted by others who were seeking sex. This type of behavior has created the furor over making “cyberspace” a safer place to truly social network.
As a teen ethics speaker, I often find kids who will share interesting stories about the solicitations they have received from Facebook and MySpace. And, if they will share with me, then I know that I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. Teens are often open and venera
ble to attack as they have yet to develop the defense in knowing what is safe. I applaud MySpace on their actions thus far…
What do you think of the actions taken my MySpace thus far? What would you suggest as additional measures that MySpace could take to improve safety?