Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 14, 2008
 
Contact: Robyn Ziegler
312-814-3118
rziegler@atg.state.il.us
 

ATTORNEYS GENERAL REACH AGREEMENT WITH MYSPACE TO CREATE SOCIAL NETWORKING SAFETY NET

Madigan Releases Report on MySpace Use by Illinois Registered Sex Offenders

In an important step forward for social networking safety, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 48 other states plus the District of Columbia today announced that MySpace has agreed to take significant actions to better protect children on its Web site, including the creation of a broad-based task force to explore and develop age and identity verification technology.

The agreement culminates nearly two years of discussions between MySpace and the attorneys general. The states pushed MySpace for changes after subpoenas to MySpace revealed that registered sexual offenders have repeatedly used the site.

Along with today's announcement, Madigan released a report summarizing the results of several subpoenas that her office sent to MySpace over the last several months. As a result of Madigan's subpoenas, MySpace released information revealing the use of MySpace by registered sex offenders in Illinois . Madigan's office created the report to improve understanding of the dangers children face online. The report, including a summary and statistics of Illinois ' MySpace Initiative, is available at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.

“I have become increasingly concerned about mounting evidence that predators are taking advantage of sites like MySpace to anonymously stalk children,” said Attorney General Madigan. “In Illinois, my office confirmed that 1,843 of the member profiles disclosed by MySpace were created by distinct registered sex offenders.”

As part of the agreement with the attorneys general, MySpace acknowledged the important role of age and identity verification technology in social networking safety and agreed to work to develop online identity authentication tools. The attorneys general have advocated for the development of effective age and identity verification, calling it vital to better protecting children using social networking sites from online sexual predators and inappropriate material.

Under the agreement, MySpace, with support from the attorneys general, will create and lead an Internet Safety Technical Task Force 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 will hire a contractor to compile a registry of e-mail addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their child's access to the site. MySpace will bar anyone using a submitted e-mail address from signing in or creating a profile.

Other specific changes and policies in the nationwide MySpace agreement include:

  • Allowing parents to submit their children's e-mail addresses so MySpace can prevent anyone using those e-mail addresses from setting up profiles,

  • Making the default setting “private” for profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds,

  • Promising to respond within 72 hours to inappropriate content complaints, and

  • Committing more staff and resources to review and classify photographs and discussion groups.

MySpace also agreed to work to implement the following:

  • 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 online safety,

  • Provide a way to report abuse on every page that contains content, consider adopting a common mechanism to report abuse, and respond quickly to abuse reports, and

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

The agreement with MySpace includes a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety which 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.

The Principles of Social Networking fall into four categories:

Online Safety Task Force . As mentioned above, MySpace will organize, with 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.

Site Design and Functionality . The Principles incorporate safety initiatives that MySpace has already implemented and initiatives it will work to implement over the coming months. MySpace has agreed to consider a common abuse reporting mechanism and has agreed to provide a means to report abuse on every content-containing page, also allowing users to easily categorize the type of offensive content at issue via a drop-down menu. MySpace will try to acknowledge reports made via the report abuse mechanism within 24 hours and will report back to consumers within 72 hours of receiving complaints

Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children . MySpace will explore the establishment of a children's e-mail registry that will empower parents to prevent their children from having access to MySpace or other any other social networking sites. In addition, under the Principles, MySpace will increase its communications with consumers who report or complain about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

Law Enforcement Cooperation . The attorneys general and MySpace will continue to work to enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes.

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