Under growing pressure from law enforcers and parents, MySpace agreed Monday to implement several security measures to protect young users from sexual predators and bullies.
Attorneys general from New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York reached an agreement with the popular online hangout, calling the agreement a potential model for the industry. Under the terms, MySpace will create an e-mail registry that will allow parents to bar their children from the site, and allow users under 18 to keep their profiles private from older users.
The Internet can be a dangerous place for children and young adults, with sexual predators surfing social-networking sites in search of potential victims and cyber-bullies sending threatening and anonymous messages, said New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, who was one of six officials representing legal authorities from 49 states and the District of Columbia.
We must keep telling children that they're not just typing into a computer. They're sharing themselves with the world, said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Texas was the only state which did not join the agreement, as the attorney general said he cannot support the effort unless the site takes action to verify people's ages.
We do not believe that MySpace.com â€” or any other social-networking site â€” can adequately protect minors without an age-verification system, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said. We are concerned that our signing the joint statement would be misperceived as an enforcement of the inadequate safety measures.
The deal comes as sites such as MySpace and Facebook have grown exponentially in recent years. Many participants in these sites are teenagers .As a result, such sites have become a hot spot for sexual predators who lie about their age to lure young victims and for cyber bullies who taunt users by sending threatening and anonymous messages.
In 2006, a 13-year-old girl from Missouri hanged herself after being taunted on MySpace by Josh, whom she believed to be a teenage boy after he gained her trust. The investigation revealed Josh's profile was fake. In another case, a 15-year-old girl from Texas was allegedly lured to a meeting, drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an adult MySpace user.
MySpace vowed to actively enforce the minimum sign up age of 14. The site will also restrict adults from adding a teenager under the age of 16 as a friend, unless they know their last name or email address.
MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., boasts more than 200 million registered users worldwide. Its main rival, Facebook has over 61 million active users.