Attorneys General reach children’s safety agreement with Facebook

Thursday, May 8, 2008 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 11:08 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Facebook, one of the world’s largest social networking Web sites, has reached an agreement with attorneys general from across the country, including Jay Nixon of Missouri.

“Building a safe and trusted online experience has been part of Facebook from its outset,” Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, told The Associated Press. “The attorneys general have shown great leadership in helping to address the critical issue of Internet safety, and we commend them for continuing to set high standards for all players in the online arena.”

The Agreement

Facebook agrees to: Ensure companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines. Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products. Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they may involve incest, pedophilia, bullying or other inappropriate content. Send warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an adult. Review users’ profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.

This is not the first agreement a social network has made with a state’s attorney general’s office. Since November, Nixon has turned over 867 names whose MySpace profiles matched registered Missouri sex offenders to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Facebook joins MySpace, another social networking site, in working with attorneys general to protect children from predators and pornography. The two networks have more than 200 million users between them.

“Both Facebook and MySpace have already implemented several recommendations from attorneys general and other online safety advocates,” Nixon said in a press release. “Today’s agreement sets out the additional steps Facebook will take as part of this broad-based task force that is exploring and developing age and identity verification technology.”

As part of the agreement, Facebook will join the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. The task force, made up of social network sites and other leading Internet businesses, works to identify “effective online safety tools and technologies that can be used by many companies across multiple platforms,” according to Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The center formed the task force in February.

Despite the new safeguards, the first step in protecting children online comes from parents.

“It is important to remember, however, that the most effective tools in protecting children from dangers online are parents who are actively involved in monitoring and talking to their children about their online activities,” Nixon said in the release.

Texas was the only state not to endorse the agreement, according to The Associated Press.

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