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 at the time.

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