Is MySpace doing enough?

January 23, 2007

Blocking sex predators and protecting minors has turned into a company-defining mission for the top Internet social network MySpace, especially when its success comes from the teeming throngs of music-hungry teens chatting, flirting and exposing their lives in public forums.

With more than 150 million user profiles and some 90 million unique visitors from around the world in December 2006 (according to comScore Media Metrix), Myspace has become a hunting ground for paedophiles.

On Tuesday, the News Corp.-owned site, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, began sending out online AMBER alerts to specific U.S. regions where members can be notified of missing kids.

Some other new precautions were a part of the announcement including:

    • Privacy Alerts: All users can now activate a privacy feature that blocks out strangers, a feature previously made available only to 14- to 15-year-olds
    • Instant Messaging and Chat Safety Restrictions: Users can only receive messages from friends on their list. Users under 18 are barred from romance chat rooms.
    • Safety Suggestion Alerts: Users under 18 will receive security warnings before posting.
    • Age Restrictions for communications and content: MySpace members who are 14 to 15 years old will be tagged as unsearchable by age on any search engine; no member can search for members under 16, nor can they add members in the age range to their friend list without knowing their e-mail addresses; Users 19 years or older cannot search for high school students.

    The new policies are the work of former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Hemanshu Nigam, who last year joined MySpace to oversee its protection system in response to criticism by child protection advocates and parents. Nigam’s specialty at the DOJ was prosecuting child pornographers, predators and traffickers.

    Here’s what Nigam told us in an interview last night about MySpace’s latest efforts: “We’ve been working with partners … and law enforcement to find any possible avenue we can take to protect our nation’s children, keeping sex offenders off our site and providing technology that the entire industry can take advantage of.”

    Is Nigam doing enough to protect kids?
    Will the new policies drive away users?

    (Photo: MySpace PR)

Comments

Personally, I don’t think parents are doing enough to police their own children’s websurfing habits. The computer is not a babysitter and neither is television, and both get complained of frequently about how deleterious they are to children for whatever reason. The root cause stems from parents who do not keep an eye on their offspring’s activity. Asking service providers and government officials to act as babysitting services seems a bit much to me.

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