MySpace and the Principles of Social Networking

In a long overdue move MySpace unveiled guidelines on online safety tools, technology, education and law enforcement cooperation based on the “Principles of Social Networking.”

The Principles of Social Networking fall into four categories:

Site Design and Functionality. The Principles incorporate safety initiatives that MySpace has already implemented  and initiatives it will work to implement in the coming months  Examples of safety features MySpace has in place include reviewing every image and video uploaded to the site, reviewing the content of Groups, making the profiles of 14 and 15 year old users automatically private and protecting them from being contacted by adults that they don’t already know in the physical world, and deleting registered sex offenders from MySpace. Examples of improvements MySpace will make include defaulting 16 and 17 year old users’ profiles to private and strengthening the technology that enforces the site’s minimum age of 14.

These moves alone should greatly ehance the site’s appeal to the masses and reduce the predatory feel and perception that give some individuals the impression that they feel they can troll for victims.

Education and Tools for Parents, Educators and Children. The Principles acknowledge that MySpace has already been devoting meaningful resources to Internet safety education including a new online safety public service announcement targeted at parents and free parental software that is under development. MySpace will explore the establishment 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. In addition, under the Principles MySpace will increase its communications with consumers who report a complaint about inappropriate content or activity on the site.

Law Enforcement Cooperation. The Attorneys General view MySpace’s cooperation with law enforcement, which includes a 24-hour hotline, to be a model for the industry. The parties will continue to work together to enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes.

Online Safety Task Force. As part of the Principles, MySpace will organize, with the support of the Attorneys General, an industry-wide Internet Safety Technical Task Force to develop online safety tools, including a review of identity authentication tools. While existing age verification and identity products are not an effective safety tool for social networking sites, the Task Force will explore all new technologies that can help make users more safe and secure including age verification. The Task Force will include Internet businesses, identity authentication experts, non-profit organizations, academics and technology companies.

In a joint effort to increase the safety of teens online, MySpace and Attorneys General in the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking representing 49 states and the District of Columbia unveiled these guidelines with the hope that the social networking experience can be a more “socially acceptable” instead of being looked at as another social predatory type of tool as some groups have, in years past, rightly and justifiably so, deemed it. Time will certainly tell whether this is just talk or whether  they will “walk the walk”.