Commentary

Just An Online Minute... MySpace's Problematic Safety Plan

After weathering years of accusations that sexual predators use MySpace to find young victims, the site has announced a purported safety agreement with 49 states.

But some aspects of this agreement will be very difficult to implement. What's more, they raise significant First Amendment concerns. Much of the pact is centered around keeping people younger than 14 off the site and limiting the ability of other teens to make their profiles public.

Currently, while MySpace officially bans users younger than 14, the site has no way to verify age. The company says it will create a task force to investigate better age verification technology, but it seems unlikely that tech-savvy youngsters won't be able to get around such systems once they're developed.

MySpace also says it will create an e-mail registry allowing parents to ban their children from the site -- which only works if minors don't have the wherewithal to create email accounts their parents don't know about.

But as a legal matter, teens have a constitutional right to express themselves. While MySpace is a private company and can presumably ban children from the site, state attorneys general are government actors and should think twice before pressuring social networking sites to start banning people from participating.

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