Under pressure from the attorneys general of 50 states and the District of Columbia, Facebook has agreed to make key changes to its social networking site that will better protect children from predators and inappropriate content.
Since 2006, the state attorneys general have sought to make social networking Web sites safer.
As part of the agreement announced today, Facebook will:
• Provide automatic safety messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult,
• Restrict the ability of users to change their listed ages,
• Act more aggressively to remove inappropriate content and groups from the site, and
• Require third party vendors to adhere to Facebooks safety and privacy guidelines.
Facebook also has agreed to maintain a list of pornographic Web sites and regularly cut any links to such sites. The company will remove groups for incest, pedophilia, cyberbullying and other violations of the sites terms of services, as well as expel from the site individual violators of those terms.
The social network site also has agreed to more prominently display safety tips to its users, require users under age 18 to affirm they have read Facebooks safety tips when they register and regularly review models for abuse reporting.
Following the discovery of more than 1,800 Illinois sex offenders on MySpace, a Madigan subpoena to Facebook discovered 123 of those MySpace Illinois sex offenders had created profiles on Facebook, as well. Facebook has since removed those profiles.
Todays agreement with Facebook includes a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Sites Safety developed by the attorneys general similar to those agreed to by MySpace. The principles fall into four categories:
• Creating an Online Safety Task Force
• Developing Design and Functionality Changes to Protect
• Children on Facebook
• Developing Education Materials and Tools for Parents,
• Educators and Children
• Cooperating with Law Enforcement
As with MySpace, I am concerned that young people communicating through Facebook run into risks of having contact with sexual predators roaming the Internet looking to meet children, teens and others, said Madigan. Many Facebook users are children who are simply too trusting and sometimes too free with the information they make available on their Facebook pages.
Today's agreement is similar to one that MySpace reached in January with 49 states and the District of Columbia. MySpace agreed to head a task force, which Facebook has joined, focused on developing technology to verify the age and identity of social networking site users. 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.