In a joint effort to increase the safety of teens online, MySpace and Attorneys General in the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking representing 49 states and the District of Columbia today unveiled a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety (attached) designed for industry-wide adoption. This common set of Principles relates to online safety tools, technology, education and law enforcement cooperation.
The Attorneys General praised MySpace for its efforts to date, the progress it has made in improving online safety and its continued efforts to make specific improvements over the coming months. The Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety recognizes that an ongoing industry effort is required to keep up with the latest technological developments and to find additional ways to protect teens. The Attorneys General called on other social networking sites and Internet providers with community features to adopt the Principles and bring their sites up to par with MySpace in terms of safety.
The Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety was announced in New York City by Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer for MySpace and Fox Interactive Media. They were joined by Attorneys General Marc Dann of Ohio and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, members of the Executive Committee of the Multi-State who participated in the development and adoption of the Principles. Attorney General Anne Milgram of New Jersey and a representative of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo were also present to endorse the Principles.
On behalf of MySpace, Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam, said, “We thank the Attorneys General for a thoughtful and constructive conversation on Internet safety. This is an industry-wide challenge and we must all work together to create a safer Internet. The Principles we have adopted set forth what the industry needs to strive towards to provide a safer online experience for teens and we look forward to sharing our ongoing safety innovations with other companies.”
The Principles incorporate safety initiatives that MySpace has already implemented (Appendix A attached) and initiatives it will work to implement in the coming months (Appendix B attached). Examples of safety features MySpace has in place include reviewing every image and video uploaded to the site, reviewing the content of Groups, making the profiles of 14 and 15 year old users automatically private and protecting them from being contacted by adults that they don’t already know in the physical world, and deleting registered sex offenders from MySpace. Examples of improvements MySpace will make include defaulting 16 and 17 year old users’ profiles to private and strengthening the technology that enforces the site’s minimum age of 14.
The Principles acknowledge that MySpace has already been devoting meaningful resources to Internet safety education including a new online safety public service announcement targeted at parents and free parental software that is under development. MySpace will explore the establishment of a children’s email registry that will empower parents to prevent their children from having access to MySpace or any other social networking site. In addition, under the Principles MySpace will increase its communications with consumers who report a complaint about inappropriate content or activity on the site.
The Attorneys General view MySpace’s cooperation with law enforcement, which includes a 24-hour hotline, to be a model for the industry. The parties will continue to work together to enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes.
As part of the Principles, MySpace will organize, with the support of the Attorneys General, an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical Task Force to develop online safety tools, including a review of identity authentication tools. While existing age verification and identity products are not an effective safety tool for social networking sites, the Task Force will explore all new technologies that can help make users more safe and secure including age verification. The Task Force will include Internet businesses, identity authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics and technology companies.
Ernie Allen, President and Chief Executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has agreed that his organization will serve on the new Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Said Allen, “Today millions of teens use social networking sites. MySpace has taken significant steps to be more secure and private and to identify those who attempt to do harm on their site. The collaborative effort between MySpace and the Attorneys General is a major step that will make using social networking sites much safer for teens.”