OLYMPIA – Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna today announced that MySpace has agreed to take significant steps to better protect children on its Web site. McKenna joined attorneys general nationwide in signing an agreement with MySpace that creates an industry-wide task force to develop technology to verify the age and identity of users.
MySpace and the attorneys agreed on joint statement of key principles in which they emphasize their shared goal of protecting children from inappropriate content and unwanted contact by adults. The agreement culminates nearly two years of discussions between MySpace and the attorneys general, in which the states pushed MySpace for changes after sexual predators repeatedly used the site to victimize youth.
“Social networking sites provide a great opportunity for people to network but as with other communication tools, they can be misused,” McKenna said. “Every day, around 50,000 sex offenders are on the Internet, lurking in chat rooms and on sites where kids and teens congregate.”
“This agreement establishes that MySpace shares our interest in creating a safe online environment for children and is committed to making improvements to its Web site that help protect children from sex predators and exposure to pornography,” McKenna continued. “All social networking services should be committed to the same principles of implementing safety tools like age authentication technology, educating parents and youth about responsible online communication and working with law enforcement to deter and prosecute criminals.”
Under the agreement, MySpace, with support from the attorneys general, will create and lead an Internet Safety Technical Task Force to explore and develop age and identity verification tools for social networking web sites. MySpace will invite other social networking sites, age and identify verification experts, child protection groups and technology companies to participate. The task force will report back to the attorneys general every three months and issue a formal report with findings and recommendations at the end of 2008.
MySpace also agreed to:
- Hire a contractor to compile a registry of e-mail addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their child’s access to the site. Parents will be able submit their children’s email addresses. MySpace will bar anyone using a submitted e-mail address from signing in or creating a profile.
- Make the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds.
- Implement “age locking.” New users who indicate they are under 18 will not be able to change their indicated age. Existing members will be allowed to change their ages only once above or below 18.
- Implement changes making it harder for adults to contact children, including creating a closed “high school” section for users under 18.
- Promise to respond within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and commit more staff and/or resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.
- Retain a contractor to better identify and expunge inappropriate images.
- Obtain and constantly update a list of pornographic Web sites and regularly sever any links to those sites from MySpace.
- Dedicate meaningful resources to educating children and parents about online safety.
- Provide a way to report abuse on every page that contains content.
The agreement also acknowledges safety features MySpace now has in place including reviewing images and videos uploaded to the site, making the profiles of 14- and 15-year-old users automatically private and deleting profiles created by registered sex offenders.
The company created a new safety public service announcement targeted at parents, is developing free parental monitoring software and has established a 24-hour hotline to respond to law enforcement inquiries.
The agreement was signed by attorneys general for 49 states and the District of Columbia.
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Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager – Seattle, (206) 464-6432
Ryan Shannon, Media Relations Manager – Olympia, (360) 753-2727