MySpace deleted the profiles of more than 29,000 registered sex offenders who had been using the social networking site. The sheer number of sex offenders using the site highlighted one of the biggest checks against MySpace: child safety. Numerous news reports over the past couple of years have painted the site as a hang out for sexual predators. This morning, MySpace aimed to put its problems behind it by announcing a new set of safety guidelines drafted in conjunction with 49 US state attorneys general.Last July
The so-called "Principles of Social Networking," which MySpace and the attorneys general hope will be adopted industry wide, would make the following safety improvements to MySpace:
- For users 16 and 17 years of age, the default profile setting will now be private -- previously this was a default only for 14 and 15 year old users (14 years old is the minimum age for site membership).
- MySpace will look into the creation of a "children's email registry that will empower parents to prevent their children from having access to MySpace or any other social networking site."
- The creation of an "Online Safety Task Force" that would develop and review online safety tools (such as those used for age verification).
- The launch of an "online safety public service campaign" to teach parents how to keep their children safe on the Internet.
- No user can browse for users under 16.
- Users under 18 are restricted from age-inappropriate areas such as Romance and Relationship, or Mature chat, forums and groups, nor can those users browse based on categories such as relationship status, smoker, drinker, or income
- Users over 18 can only search the school section for high school students graduating in the current or upcoming year.
According to the Associatd Press, Facebook faces similar safety issues with young users. "Last year, New York investigators said they set up Facebook profiles as 12- to 14-year olds and were quickly contacted by other users looking for sex," writes the AP's Michael Gormley. Because the "Principles" were drafted as industry standards, it is possible that the attorneys general will request (demand?) that other social networking sites sign on.
One of the main issues in the coming year on the web is going to be privacy. We're already starting to see the major social networks attempt to offer tools to users that will let users define who sees information about them (though it should be noted that the social network itself will always have access to that information). MySpace has announced plans to allow people to have mutliple profiles for different audiences, while Facebook reportedly has plans to introduce privacy controls to friend lists. Multiply was one of the first social networks to offer such granular control over information dissemination.