Attorney General Bill McCollum News Release
January 14, 2008
Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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Florida Announces Agreement with MySpace to Boost Social Networking Safety

~ National agreement will include the creation of a task force to explore possibilities of age and identity verification technology ~


TALLAHASSEE, FL – In a great step forward for cybersafety, Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that Florida, 48 other states and the District of Columbia have reached an agreement with MySpace to further enhance the safety of the popular social networking site. The agreement includes many design and policy changes that will better protect youth from harmful images and unwanted contact from adults.

“Unfortunately, cybercrime is very prevalent on the internet, and I commend MySpace and its parent company, News Corporation, for working diligently to protect our children,” said Attorney General McCollum. “We must take every opportunity to make the internet a safer place for children, and I encourage other social networking sites to adopt many of the design changes announced by MySpace today.”

MySpace acknowledged the important role of this technology in social networking safety and agreed to explore the potential for developing on-line identity authentication tools. The Attorneys General of the participating states have said age and identity verification is vital to better protect children from on-line sexual predators and inappropriate material. National statistics show every day, 77 million children are on the internet and one out of every seven between the ages of 10 and 17 will be sexually solicited online.
“MySpace applauds Attorney General McCollum's leadership in the realm of internet safety. Florida was one of the first states in the nation to enact laws requiring convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses so social networking sites can block them from their communities," said Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer for MySpace. “We look forward to continuing to work with Attorney General McCollum to make the internet safer for all of Florida’s youth.”

MySpace, with support from the Attorneys General, will create an Internet Safety Technical Task Force to explore age and identity verification tools. The task force will include representatives from other social networking sites, age and identify verification experts, child protection groups and technology companies. The task force will report back to the Attorneys General every three months and will issue a formal report with findings and recommendations at the end of 2008.

Other specific changes and policies that MySpace agreed to develop include making the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds and creating a closed “high school” section for users under 18. MySpace will also compile a registry of email addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their child’s access to the site, and the company will prohibit anyone using a submitted email address from signing in or creating a profile.

MySpace has also agreed to make the following changes to further promote the safe use of its site:
- Strengthen software identifying underage users;
- 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 between those sites and MySpace;
- Implement changes making it harder for adults to contact children;
- Respond within 72 hours to inappropriate content complaints;
- Review its icon to report abuse to determine whether it should be modified or replaced;
- Dedicate meaningful resources to educating children and parents about on-line safety; and
- Commit more staff and/or resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.

Today’s agreement culminates nearly two years of discussions between MySpace and the Attorneys General.

With the Attorneys General, MySpace developed and released a joint statement on key principles of social networking safety, recognizing that an ongoing industry effort is required to keep pace with the latest technological developments and to develop additional ways to protect teens, including online identity authentication tools. The principles of social networking fall into the following categories:

- Site Design and Functionality will incorporate safety initiatives that MySpace has already implemented as well as initiatives it will work to implement in the coming months. Examples of safety features MySpace already has in place include reviewing every image and video uploaded to the site, reviewing social groups, making the profiles of 14- and 15-year-old users automatically private to protect them from being contacted by unknown adults and deleting registered sex offenders’ accounts from MySpace.

- Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children will include the meaningful resources MySpace has already devoted to internet safety education. Among these resources are a new online safety public service announcement targeting parents and free parental monitoring software that is under development. MySpace will explore the establishment of a children’s email registry that will empower parents to prevent their child from having access to MySpace or other any other social networking sites. MySpace will also increase its communications with consumers who report or complain about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

- Law Enforcement Cooperation will be enhanced as involved parties continue working together to enhance the ability of law enforcement officials who are investigating and prosecuting internet crimes.

- An Online Safety Task Force will be organized by MySpace, with support of the Attorneys General, to function as an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical Task Force. The task force will develop online safety tools including a review of identity authentication tools and will include internet businesses, identity authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics and technology companies.