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For immediate release Thursday, May 8, 2008.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699.

Facebook Agrees to Steps to Protect Children

“But parents still must supervise kids online,” says Attorney General Tom Miller.

“Facebook” -- the popular social networking web site -- has agreed to make changes that will help protect children from sexual predators and inappropriate content, Attorney General Tom Miller said today. [Go to: Facebook agreement with States.]

Miller joined attorneys general from across the U.S. in an agreement with Facebook similar to an agreement reached in January with “MySpace.” MySpace agreed then to head a task force to develop age and identity identification tools for social networking sites. Facebook now has agreed to join the task force.

“Our driving concern is that social networking sites can be misused by sexual predators to commit crimes against minors, and that minors may be exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content,” Miller said.

Facebook agreed to:

  • Restrict the ability of users to change their listed ages.

  • Act more aggressively to remove inappropriate content and groups from the site.

  • Display safety tips more prominently and require users under 18 to affirm they have read Facebook’s safety tips when they sign up.

  • Provide automatic warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult.

  • Require third-party vendors to adhere to Facebook’s safety and privacy guidelines.

 

The agreement has numerous measures aiming to prevent underage users, protect younger users from inappropriate contact, protect younger users from inappropriate content, and provide safety tools for all members,” Miller said.

Under the agreement, when a Facebook user wants to change his or her age the first time, website staff will review the user’s profile to determine whether the change is appropriate (since older predators often pretend they are youths, and youths exaggerate their age.) In addition, companies offering Facebook user services, called “widgets,” will now have to implement and enforce Facebook’s safety and privacy guidelines.

Facebook agreed to maintain a list of pornographic websites and regularly sever any links to such sites. It will remove groups for incest, pedophilia, cyber-bullying and other violations of the Facebook site’s terms of services, as well as expel individual violators of those terms from the site.

The North Carolina and Connecticut Attorney General’s Offices have led a working group of state attorneys general seeking to make social networking safer.

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

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 and Facebook that are popular with youth aged 10-17 and do not have sufficient safeguards.

Miller and the ICAC Task Force have emphasized that parental supervision and familiarity with children’s activity on-line is essential.

“Parents should have repeated conversations with youths about possible threats, including online predators, and should know what sites the youths are visiting,” Miller said. “Parents are the most important protective measure.”

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