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For immediate release – Monday, January 14, 2008.
Contact Bob Brammer – 515-281-6699.

MySpace Agrees to Steps to Protect Children

But Attorney General Tom Miller emphasizes parents still must exercise supervision.

“MySpace” has agreed to take more steps to better protect children on its “social networking” web site, including creating a broad-based task force to explore and develop age-verification and identity-verification technology.

“Our concern is that social networking sites can be misused by sexual predators as a means to commit crimes against minors,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. “And we are concerned that minors may gain access to content that may be inappropriate for them.”

Miller joined attorneys general across the U.S. in Monday’s agreement with MySpace. The attorneys general especially advocate age and identity verification, calling it vital to better protecting children who use social networking sites.

MySpace also agreed to develop specific changes and policies to: allow parents to submit their children’s email addresses so MySpace can prevent anyone using the email addresses from setting up profiles; make the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds; respond within 72 hours to complaints of inappropriate content; and commit more staff and resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.

The Attorneys General commended MySpace in the agreement for its effort to address social networking safety issues.

The states pushed MySpace for changes after sexual predators repeatedly used the MySpace site to victimize children. Miller emphasized that parents still need to be involved with and supervise their children’s on-line activity. There are numerous other sites similar to MySpace that are popular with youth aged 10-17 that don’t have sufficient safeguards.

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More background and detail:

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has been a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Iowa (ICAC) since 2004, and actively assists law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in responding to the threat of Internet sexual predators.

Miller and the ICAC Task Force have emphasized that parental supervision and familiarity with children’s activity online is essential. Parents should have repeated conversations with youths about possible threats, including on-line predators, and should know what sites the youths are visiting. “Parents are the most important protective measure,” Miller said.

Regarding the nationwide agreement with MySpace: Under the agreement, MySpace will create and lead an Internet Safety Technical Task Force, with support from the attorneys general, 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 in the task force.

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:

  • 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 them and MySpace.

  • Implement changes making it harder for adults to contact children.

  • Dedicate meaningful resources to educating children and parents about on-line safety.

  • Review its icon to report abuse to determine whether it should be modified or replaced.

  • Create a closed “high school” section for users under 18.

The Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety agreed to by MySpace recognizes that an ongoing industry effort is required to keep pace with the latest technological developments and develop additional ways to protect teens, including online identity authentication tools.

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UPDATE: May 8, 2008 -- States announce similar agreement with "Facebook".