MySpace and Texas

In January, MySpace and 49 attorneys general agreed to several changes aimed at protecting children and teenager users of their service.  The agreement states:

  • MySpace and the attorneys general will:
    • share the goal of designing and implementing technologies and features that will make MySpace safer.
    • meet regularly to discuss improvements relevant to minors’ safety on MySpace.
    • support initiatives for the investigation and prosecution of Internet crimes.
    • be sure law enforcement can act quickly to investigate and prosecute crimes on MySpace.
  • MySpace:
    • will continue to provide information on keeping minors safe in MySpace to parents and educators.
    • will try to acknowledge consumer reports or complaints within 24 hours of receipt. Within 72 hours, MySpace will report back to the consumer with the steps it has taken.
    • shall retain an Independent Examiner for 2 years, who will evaluate MySpace’s handling of consumer complaints
    • has instituted a 24-hour hotline for the use of law enforcement.
    • will (or has) implement age locking (cannot change age if under 18), friend requests only from those that know your email address, users under 16 will automatically have a private profile, users under 18 must approve all comments, profiles of sex offenders removed, use technology to identify inappropriate images, users under 18 will be removed from mature groups, hire a Product Safety Manager, and Tom will send safety tips to minors.  Other items are included in the document.
    • plans to help create a list of email addresses for those under 18 so that parents can deny them a MySpace profile, strengthen the algorithm used to identify underage users, change default profile for ages 16-17 to private, create closed high school section, sever links to adult porn sites, develop better image review, and better ways to monitor groups.

If you’ve used MySpace, you can immediately see that, although these items will be helpful, they do not definitively protect younger users.  This is the reason Texas’ Attorney General did not sign the agreement. Greg Abbott feels that this agreement is a starting point and is concerned that, if Texas signs, parents will think that MySpace is safe for their children.

His primary concern is the lack of an age verification system. The other signers of the agreement also saw this as an issue, but for Abbott, this technology is just the beginning of the protection MySpace is proposing and shouldn’t be seen as an end.

[from New York Times]
[from CNET News.com]

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