Local News

Facebook to beef up online protections

Posted May 8, 2008 12:48 p.m. EDT

— Facebook.com has agreed to change its online social networking site to better protect children from predators and inappropriate content, authorities said Thursday.

The changes are part of an agreement between Facebook and 49 states, including North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. It's similar to an agreement the states reached in January with rival social networking site MySpace.com.

“Social networks that encourage kids to come to their sites have a responsibility to keep those kids safe,” North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We’ve now gotten the two largest social networking sites to agree to take significant steps to protect children from predators and pornography.”

Facebook will start providing automatic warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult; will restrict the ability of users to change their listed ages; will remove inappropriate content and groups from the site more quickly; and will require third-party vendors to adhere to Facebook’s safety and privacy guidelines.

The site also will display safety tips more prominently, require users under 18 to affirm that they have read the safety tips when they sign up and regularly review models for abuse reporting.

MySpace is heading a task force, which Facebook has joined, to explore and develop age and identity identification tools for social networking sites.

“Getting the major social networking sites to do more is just one of the ways we’re tackling online safety,” Cooper said. “We’ll keep working to put child predators and pornographers behind bars, to beef up our laws and to encourage parents to learn to what their kids are doing online.”