MySpace vows to tighten security for young users

Society Materials 15 January 2008 01:08 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Social networking site MySpace on Monday announced an agreement with 49 US states to ramp up online safety by introducing age verification and a string of other measures designed to make it more difficult for sex offenders to target children through the site.

Under the agreement, MySpace pledged to work with the attorneys general on a set of principles to combat harmful material on social-networking sites, better educate parents and schools about online threats, cooperate with law enforcement officials around the country, as well as develop new technology for age and identity verification on the site.

"Today's announcement is a landmark step forward in providing new protections for teenage members of social-networking sites such as MySpace," Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said at a press conference. "This is an industrywide challenge, and we must all work together to create a safer Internet."

The agreement established the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking which released a set of "key principles" it hopes will achieve industrywide approval from other social-networking sites and Internet providers.

"We are calling on Facebook and other social-networking sites today to adopt these principles, to put these safety practices in effect, and to join the task force," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. "We think it's critical that this be industrywide."

Currently MySpace members must be 14 years old to create a profile, but the site has no effective age verification process. The site also automatically makes the profiles of its 14- and 15-year-old members private and will soon extend that practice to 16- and 17-year-olds in an effort to further protect them from being contacted by unknown adults, MySpace said.

In a statement, MySpace detailed a string of other measures it had committed to introduce, including allowing parents to submit children's e-mail addresses to MySpace to prevent anyone from misusing the addresses to set up profiles.

The site, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, also promised to respond within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and to devote more staff and resources to classify photographs and discussion groups.

MySpace also promised to hire a contractor to identify and delete pornographic images on the site, strengthen software to find underage users and create a high school section for users under 18 years old.