The Facebook networking page of Phil Miatkowski was seen in his Lake Forest, Ill., dorm room Thursday. He created a Facebook online group to keep friends informed about legislation to legalize civil unions in Illinois.
Facebook adds safeguards for youths
Facebook, the world's second-largest social networking Web site, is adding more than 40 new safeguards to protect young users from sexual predators and cyberbullies, attorneys general from Hawaii and other states said Thursday.
Facebook saves face
Among other changes to protect young users from sexual predators and cyberbullies, Facebook has agreed to:
» Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.
» Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they might 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.
The changes include banning convicted sex offenders from the site, limiting older users' ability to search online for subscribers under 18 and joining an existing task force seeking ways to better verify users' ages and identities.
Officials from 49 states and Washington, D.C., have signed on. The agreement is similar to one Myspace.com reached in January.
"The agreement marks another watershed step toward social networking safety, protecting kids from online predators and inappropriate content," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who announced the agreement Thursday with his counterparts in several other states.
The changes include "providing automatic warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult, restrict the ability of users to change their listed ages, acting more aggressively to remove inappropriate content and groups from the site, and requiring third-party vendors to adhere to Facebook's safety and privacy guidelines," said the Hawaii attorney general's office.
Facebook, which has more than 70 million active users worldwide, already has enacted many of the changes, and others are in the works, its officials said.
"Building a safe and trusted online experience has been part of Facebook from its outset," said Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer. "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 attorneys general have been negotiating for months for tighter controls with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook and MySpace, the world's largest online social network, with 200 million users around the world.
MySpace, Facebook and other online networks have created a new venue for sexual predators, who often lie about their age to lure young victims to chat, share images and sometimes meet in person. It also has spawned cyberbullies, who have sent threatening and anonymous messages to classmates, acquaintances and other users.
Star-Bulletin reporter Gene Park contributed to this report.