Scoop: Facebook To Announce Safety And Privacy Deal With 49 States

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The Attorney General of Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, is about to make an announcement at noon ET that he and the attorneys generals from 48 other states have negotiated a deal with Facebook to implement new safety and privacy rules, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. Facebook will be making its own announcement later on today. This comes on the heels of a comprehensive agreement the 49 states made with MySpace last January. (The lone holdout in both cases is Texas). Blumenthal and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper co-chair the coalition that brokered the deal with MySpace. As I noted back then:

Today’s agreement between MySpace and nearly all the states attorneys general to bulk up protections against sexual predators will no doubt have spillover effects on other social networks as well. No social network can afford to look like it is lagging in this area and will do whatever it can to be at par with emerging industry norms in this area.

Now Facebook is going to announce its new Key Principles Of Social Networking Safety, which will include cooperation with law enforcement, implementing technology to protect younger users, additional safety tools for all members, and additional education and safety resources for all members. It will also join MySpace on the Internet Safety Task Force. Other areas that could see more resources thrown at them include more active reviews of images, videos, and groups, better age-limit enforcement, and linking into the sex offender database for more prompt removal of sexual predators from Facebook. With Facebook and MySpace on board, the AGs will now go after other social networks to comply with them as well.

This must have been a huge pill for Facebook to swallow. On the one hand, it cannot be seen as lagging in this area with all the real concerns about sexual predators on social networks. On the other hand, the costs of compliance will no doubt be significant.

The rules will apply not only to Facebook, but to all application developers as well. Facebook will build in more automatic warning messages when underage members are in danger of giving out personal information to an unknown adult and will restrict the ability of users to change their listed ages to under 18. Facebook has agreed to voluntarily comply with the following:

• Require companies offering services — called “widgets” or
applications — to implement and enforce Facebook’s safety and
privacy guidelines;

• Review and scrutinize requests by a user to change his or her
age. Requests to change profile ages will be logged, and
Facebook will grant only a single request to change an age above
or below 18.

• Maintain and continuously update a list of pornographic websites
and regularly sever any links to such sites;

• Increase efforts to remove groups for incest, pedophilia,
cyberbullying and other violations of the site’s terms of services
and expel from the site individual violators of those terms,

• Aggressively remove inappropriate images and content;

• More prominently display safety tips;

• Require users under 18 to affirm they have read Facebook’s
safety tips when they sign up;

report-abuse.png• Regularly review models for abuse reporting and perform a test
using the New Jersey Attorney General’s abuse reporting icon.

• Restricting searches by over-18 users so they cannot seek under-
18 users, along with other significant limits on searches;

• Limiting certain ads for age-restricted products — such as alcohol
and tobacco — to users old enough to purchase such items;

• Identifying and removing profiles of all registered sex offenders;

• Sending automatic warning messages when a child is in danger
of providing personal information to an unknown adult;

• Providing extensive privacy controls allowing the user to block
access to their profile, restrict information available to users not
their friends and prevent another user from contacting them;

• Providing parents with tools to remove their underage child’s
profile from the site.

Full release after the break.

CT ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCES NATIONWIDE AGREEMENT
WITH FACEBOOK TO MAKE SITE SAFER FOR UNDERAGE USERS

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced today that Facebook has
agreed to make changes to better protect children from predators and
inappropriate content and to participate in a task force on implementation of age
and identity verification software.

The agreement was reached with 49 states and the District of Columbia that
are members of a coalition co-chaired by Blumenthal and Attorney General Roy
Cooper of North Carolina.

Since 2006, Blumenthal and Cooper have led negotiations with MySpace
and Facebook as co-chairs of a working group of state attorneys general seeking
to make social networking safer. The multistate group’s Executive Committee
also includes Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Today’s Facebook agreement is similar to one that MySpace reached in
January with 49 states and the District of Columbia. MySpace agreed to more
than 60 specific safety measures and to head a task force, which Facebook has
joined, to explore and develop age and identity identification tools for social
networking sites.

“This agreement marks another milestone step for social networking safety
– protecting kids from online predators and pornography,” Blumenthal said. “We
are raising the safety bar, first for MySpace and now Facebook, and soon for
other sites as we fight for an industry gold standard. Facebook and MySpace are
showing how to aim higher and keep kids safer. Our ultimate goal is age and
identity verification technology — safeguards against child molesters and
inappropriate material. Checking ages and identities is vital to better shielding
underage users from predators and pornography.

“Our powerful national multistate coalition will continue fighting to stop
predators and pornography on these sites. The sites must recognize their responsibility. This agreement is open-ended — envisioning advances in
technology that enable even stronger safety steps.

“We appreciate Facebook’s cooperation throughout.”

Under the agreement, Facebook will:

• Require companies offering services — called “widgets” or
applications — to implement and enforce Facebook’s safety and
privacy guidelines;
• Review and scrutinize requests by a user to change his or her
age. Requests to change profile ages will be logged, and
Facebook will grant only a single request to change an age above
or below 18.
• Maintain and continuously update a list of pornographic websites
and regularly sever any links to such sites;
• Increase efforts to remove groups for incest, pedophilia,
cyberbullying and other violations of the site’s terms of services
and expel from the site individual violators of those terms,
• Aggressively remove inappropriate images and content;
• More prominently display safety tips;
• Require users under 18 to affirm they have read Facebook’s
safety tips when they sign up;
• Regularly review models for abuse reporting and perform a test
using the New Jersey Attorney General’s abuse reporting icon.
• Restricting searches by over-18 users so they cannot seek under-
18 users, along with other significant limits on searches;
• Limiting certain ads for age-restricted products — such as alcohol
and tobacco — to users old enough to purchase such items;
• Identifying and removing profiles of all registered sex offenders;
• Sending automatic warning messages when a child is in danger
of providing personal information to an unknown adult;
• Providing extensive privacy controls allowing the user to block
access to their profile, restrict information available to users not
their friends and prevent another user from contacting them;
• Providing parents with tools to remove their underage child’s
profile from the site.

Some of these measures have already been implemented by Facebook and
are formalized by this agreement.

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