Facebook Issues Warning About Sexual Predators In NY AG Settlement
As part of a settlement with New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo, Facebook will also attempt to bar children under 13 with great success, suggest that parents consider supervising older children's online activity, and respond with greater urgency to related users' complaints.
Last month, Cuomo issued a subpoena against Facebook, taking issue with the site's claim that it provides a secure environment for young people. He said the settlement served as a "new model" under which law enforcement and Web publishers could better protect young Web users.
Facebook also plans to hire an independent monitor to track its responses to complaints, which can range from thousands to tens of thousands daily. The independent company will be expected to report twice a year to Facebook and the attorney general.
Until recently, longtime industry leader MySpace bore the brunt of the criticism over Web safety. But with its sharp rise in popularity, Facebook increasingly attracted attention.
Earlier this month, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram issued her own subpoena to Facebook, requesting that the company turn over information as to whether registered sex offenders have profiles on the site. (Milgram's office sent letters to 11 other social networking sites, including MySpace, asking them to release similar data.)
Parental concern regarding online safety has risen more than 30% since last year, according to Brand Keys, a New York-based market research firm.
To address this issue, Virginia recently became the first state to require public schools to teach Internet safety. Officials in other states, including Connecticut and North Carolina, are also calling for stronger government regulation of social networking sites.
In response, Facebook last month said it had identified and removed an unspecified number of profiles belonging to registered sex offenders, according to a statement released by Milgram's office. The New Jersey attorney general, however, has demanded more precise data, such as the names and email addresses of these individuals.
Such aggressive tactics, it seems, have already produced positive results. Earlier this year, subpoenas were issued by multiple state attorneys general against MySpace, which ultimately led to the identification and deletion of 268 registered sex offenders' profiles in New Jersey, according to Milgram's office.
For its part, MySpace last year hired a chief security officer. Hemanshu Nigam, previously the director of consumer security outreach and child-safe computing at Microsoft, has worked since his appointment in April to consolidate a number of duties previously filled by other managers--including outreach to law enforcement, and overseeing site security and user safety.
In addition, MySpace has independently executed a number of public awareness campaigns promoting online safety, removed thousands of sex offenders from its site, strengthened privacy options, and claims to be perfecting software for parents to monitor their kids' activity online.