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Social Networking Faces More Legal Pressure

States attorneys general have been pressuring social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook for months to toughen their age and identity verifications standards.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has been pushing the sites all along, is now dramatically increasing that pressure by enlisting all his fellow attorneys generals in the campaign. The group plans to push for new state laws to require social networks to verify users' ages and obtain parental consent for minors who want to post profiles.

Blumenthal's office did not return a request for comment.

Concerned over sexual predators trolling the sites, the states' top law enforcement officials hope new laws and increased pressure will better protect the minors who use the sites.

"Specific reforms have been advocated by our coalition -- age and identity verification, and parental permission -- that all the social networking sites should adopt immediately," Blumenthal said in a statement earlier this month.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook currently requires new users to provide a valid e-mail address. News Corp.'s MySpace requests a new user's age. Both actively work to keep minors under 14 years off the their sites.

In response to Blumenthal's pressure, MySpace in July deleted more than 29,000 registered sex offenders using the popular site.

Blumenthal said that's just a start in his effort to protect minors online.

"The convicted sex offenders are only the tip of the predator problem," he said. "Our 50-state coalition is considering additional measures seeking information from all social networking sites, as we have done with Facebook and MySpace."

Blumenthal failed to win approval in the most recent Connecticut legislative session for a bill that would have fined social networking sites $50,000 per violation for failing to verify ages or obtaining parental consent. Similar legislative efforts have failed in North Carolina and Georgia.

The social networking sites claim there is no effective software to accomplish what Blumenthal is seeking.

"All 50 states have a strong and urgent interest in tracking down and cracking down on convicted sex offenders with profiles on these social networking sites," Blumenthal said.

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram earlier this month subpoenaed MySpace for the names and addresses of sex offenders, because the 29,000 deletions was enough to make Milgram curious, David Wald, a spokesman for Milgram, told internetnews.com at the time.