MySpace, Facebook show tools to ward off child predators

At meeting of MySpace-formed task force, social networks show how kids are kept safe

He went on to note that users choose who can view the information on their profiles, and that only 0.1 percent of the 100 million profiles on the site are publicly available to all other users.

For users under 18 who join groups, their profile is only available to other under-18-year-old users in that group, he added. "This provides a built-in neighborhood watch program for every user on the site," Kelly noted.

Like MySpace, Facebook has an automated system aimed at detecting potentially dangerous behavior. Called Karma, the system will flag suspicious behavior like a 34-year-old user attempting to befriend a 14-year-old or 15-year-old child.

He added that 100 percent of reports from users to Facebook about nudity posted to the site or harassment complaints are reviewed with 24 hours and resolved within 72 hours. Furthermore, users who are age 13 though 17 will have their account disabled if they send friend requests to other users who cannot verify that they know the minor, he added.

Kelly pointed to a Facebook poll of 500 13 to 17-years-old users that a majority had not seen nudity on the site, that they know most or all of the people they interact with.

Simon Axten, a privacy and public policy associate at Facebook, noted from the meeting that the site allows users to report suspicious behavior, which can help catch criminals who may fall through the cracks and not get flagged by the automated systems.

"We are constantly working on these systems," he noted. "We're still approaching this problem from a technical perspective. A challenge that we have is enforcing that real name culture or getting across to users how the site is to be used. There is some inclination to use the site on a pseudonym or fake name basis."

Richard Blumenthal, AG of Connecticut and co-chair of the group of AGs who have honed in on online safety, noted that anonymity on social networks is a real concern to law enforcement. MySpace, he added, has identified 50,000 child predators who have established profiles on the site using their own names.

"For all those 50,000, there are a lot more that don't use their real names," he said. "The anonymity of the Internet is one of the greatest threats law enforcement sees to apprehending and preventing criminal assaults."

However, he commended the task force for taking on the challenge of putting into place better online child protection measures. "It is a passion that has united AGs as I have never seen before in 18 years in my office," he added. "Other than the [anti] tobacco effort there has been no other multi-state task force that has attracted so much support and interest as this one."

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