TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: My Space Adds New Age Restrictions

My Space Adds New Age Restrictions

Anick Jesdanun (
Wed, 21 Jun 2006 14:07:26 -0500

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer is planning new restrictions on how adults may contact its
younger users in response to growing concerns about the safety of
teenagers who frequent the popular online social networking site.

The site already prohibits kids 13 and under from setting up accounts
and displays only partial profiles for those registered as 14 or 15
years old unless the person viewing the profile is already on the
teen's list of friends.

Under the changes, announced Wednesday and taking effect next week,
MySpace users who are 18 or over could no longer request to be on a
14- or 15-year-old's friends' list unless they already know either the
youth's e-mail address or full name.

Any user will still be able to get a partial profile of younger users
by searching for other attributes, such as display name. The
difference is that currently, adults can then request to be added to a
youth's list to view the full profile; that option will disappear for
adults registered as 18 and over.

However, users under 18 can still make such contact, and MySpace has
no mechanism for verifying that users submit their true age when
registering. That means adults can sign up as teens and request to
join a 14-year-old's list of friends, which would enable the full

"There is far less than meets the eye in these newly announced MySpace
measures," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a
statement. "These steps are inadequate because they lack any age
verification and leave the minimum age too low."

The partial profiles display gender, age and city. Full profiles
describe hobbies, schools and any other personal details a user may

Driven largely by word of mouth, MySpace has grown astronomically
since its launch in January 2004 and is now second in the United
States among all Web sites by total page views, behind only Yahoo
Inc. according to comScore Media Metrix. The site currently has some
87 million users, about a quarter registered as minors, according to
the company.

At MySpace, which was bought last year by News Corp. for $580 million,
users can expand their circles of friends by exploiting existing
connections, rather than meeting randomly or by keyword matches alone.

It offers a mix of features -- message boards, games, Web journals --
designed to keep its youth-oriented visitors clicking on its
advertising-supported pages.

MySpace has recently become a target of parents, schools and law
enforcement officials concerned that teens who hang out at MySpace can
fall victim to sexual predators.

Just this week, a 14-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted
by a 19-year-old user sued MySpace and News Corp., seeking $30 million
in damages. And earlier this month, a 16-year-old girl who tricked her
parents into getting her a passport flew to the Mideast to be with a
20-year-old man she met through MySpace. U.S. officials in Jordan
persuaded the teen to turn around and go home.

MySpace officials say the new restrictions have been long planned and
are unrelated to recent events.

Besides the contact restrictions, all users -- not just those 14 and 15
-- will have the option to make only partial profiles available to
those not already on their friends list.

All users also will get an option to prevent contact from people
outside their age group. Currently, they may only choose to require
that a person know their e-mail or last name first; that will remain
an option to those 16 and over, even as it becomes mandatory for those

MySpace also will beef up its ad-targeting technology, so that it can
avoid displaying gambling and other adult-themed sites on minors'
profile pages and target special public-service announcements to them.

The changes follow a number of safety-related measures that includes
the hiring of a former federal prosecutor and Microsoft
Corp. executive as its online safety chief. MySpace already has
developed safety tips for parents and children and devotes scores of
employees to monitoring the site around the clock.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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