Let me quickly address the document that was signed between MySpace and 49 state Attorney Generals on 01/14/08 to introduce an industry-wide set of best practices for the safety of minors on social networking sites.

First of all, it isn’t a traditional settlement, nor is it a compliance agreement. It isn’t even binding. It’s simply a “statement of principles” designed to guide all social networking sites to follow these protocols:

1. DESIGN & FUNCTIONALITY

  • site manager to review all uploaded videos & images
  • site manager to review “Groups” content
  • make profiles “private” (especially those of kids under the age of 16) so that adults can not have direct contact unless there is a known connection in the physical world
  • enforce restrictions on age & user registration to protect youth
  • delete registered sex offenders who attempt to create a user profile

2. PARENTAL TOOLS

  • offer a children’s email registry which parents can use to prevent their children from signing up for an account.
  • provide online safety public service announcements targeted at parents
  • increase communication with consumers who report a complaint about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

3. LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION

  • 24-hour hotline for police.

4. ONLINE SAFETY TASK FORCE

  • partnerships with entitles such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics, technology companies, and other internet businesses.
  • review of identity authentication tools

Yes, these are additional measures designed to improve the safety of our youth online. But there isn’t a product currently on the market that can prevent a user from falsifying his or her age on the internet. And that means, most social networking sites will continue to struggle with the task of preventing our children from interacting with a “poser” or predator.

I stand (in my belief) alongside State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who did not join the 49 other AG’s in their partnership with MySpace. According to the Texas maverick this “safety” initiative is not much more than smoke & mirrors.

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