A lot of chest-thumping by state attorneys general today in a press conference on a joint initiative with MySpace and 49 states (Texas isn’t playing along, for some reason) to develop safety standards for social networking sites. News Corp.’s (NWS) social network will collaborate on a 24-hour safety hotline and an independent, outside safety inspector, and organise “industry-wide” tech standards for online safety. MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam calls on “all social networking sites” to join the task force.
Aside from the task force, MySpace has agreed to the following:
- MySpace will review — manually(!) — every image and video uploaded to the site
- Profiles of 14 to 15-year-old users will be automatically private; underage users cannot be contacted by people they don’t know in the outside world
- Profiles of 16 and 17-year-old users will default to private
- Delete profiles by registered sex offenders
- Adopt strengthened technology to enforce the site’s minimum age of 14
The backstory: Concerns about teen’s safety and privacy on MySpace have dogged the site for years, and while it has worked strenuously to appease lawmakers, law enforcement and parents’ groups, those concerns haven’t disappeared entirely. Case in point: publication today of a New Yorker story about the “MySpace Suicide Hoax”, in which a 13-year-old girl killed herself “after an exchange of hostile messages with a boy who had befriended her on MySpace”; the “boy” was a fake character created by the girl’s neighbours.
Meanwhile MySpace competitor Facebook has been left largely unscathed by similar scandals, though last year New York investigators said they were able to set up Facebook profiles as 12- to 14-year olds looking for sex.
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