Connecticut Asks MySpace to Provide Blocking Software
Site Needs to be Safer for Kids, State Argues
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has sent MySpace.com a letter asking the company to provide parents with software to block the web site, ban kids under 16, institute new measures against pornography and take other steps to protect children from sexual predators and inappropriate material.
The letter follows discussions between Blumenthal’s office and top MySpace.com executives, including a February meeting with MySpace co-founder/CEO Chris DeWolfe and company lawyers.
"While our discussions have been encouraging, I ask MySpace to take specific practical steps to address immediately the most critical concerns identified by my office," Blumenthal said in his letter. "These measures are technologically feasible, as well as consistent with your stated terms of service and your own explicit goal of prohibiting nudity and other offensive or inappropriate material from your website.
"This site now exposes young people to a perilous cyber environment with people posting sexually explicit materials and looking for sexual relationships. In fact, children can still view pornographic images, links to X-rated web sites, ‘clubs’ involving adults seeking sexual encounters and webcam sex for sale offers. I ask you to adopt my proposed steps immediately even as you develop new technology offering better protection," Blumenthal wrote.
Blumenthal asked the company to:
• Provide parents with free software allowing them to block access to MySpace from their home computers.
• Raise the minimum age for a MySpace profile from 14 to 16. If the company wants to continue serving that age group, it should create a separate and distinct site for 14- and 15-year-olds.
• Require users to log in and verify their age before viewing profiles. Once logged in, only users 18 or older would be allowed to view adult material.
• Make technical changes preventing 14- and 15-year-olds from making their profiles "public" and requiring parental consent for anyone 16 or older to view them.
• Add staff and technology to filter out and remove pornography and prohibited content. Also, prohibit people seeking casual sexual encounters from communicating with minors, remove explicit references to "swingers," and fully disclose that parts of the site contain adult material.
• Banish permanently users who repeatedly post so-called "deep links" to pornography or other prohibited content.
• Hire an aggressive watchdog independent of the corporate hierarchy that reports directly to the board of directors about inappropriate material, sexual predators or other problems on the site.