MySpace Ups Effort Against Sex Offenders - InformationWeek

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MySpace Ups Effort Against Sex Offenders

The popular social networking site is answering criticisms that it hasn't done enough to protect underage users.

MySpace.com has partnered with an online identity and background verification company to root out sex offenders from the popular social network.

MySpace.com, which is owned by News Corp., said Tuesday it plans to identify and delete the profiles of registered sex offenders based on a database that is to be built by Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. Information in the data store would be compiled and updated frequently from records kept by federal and state law enforcement agencies.

MySpace.com plans to employ a 24-hour dedicated staff to check profiles against convicted sex offenders' names, ages, physical descriptions, and distinguishing features such as scars and tattoos. The Sentinel database is expected to contain information on the 550,000 registered sex offenders in the United States.

MySpace.com has testified before Congress in support of a law that would require convicted sex offenders to register all of their e-mail addresses in a national database, which would make it easier to prevent them from joining sites like MySpace.com, which has a large base of teenage users. Under the proposal, failing to register e-mails would constitute a violation of offenders' parole or probation, which could land them back in jail.

Child advocacy groups have criticized MySpace.com for failing to do enough to protect users younger than 18. In response to the dangers of teenagers becoming victims of sexual predators, the site in June launched security measures to protect 14 and 15 year olds. In addition, MySpace.com hired Hemanshu Nigam as chief security officer. Nigam is a former federal prosecutor against Internet child exploitation for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nevertheless, child advocacy groups maintain that among the biggest problems of social networks remains their failure to reliably determine the age of people joining the site, in order to separate children and adults. In fact, sex offenders could simply lie when registering at an e-mail carrier, making it possible for them to circumvent new security measures.

In October, MySpace.com had 49.5 million unique visitors, making it one of the largest social networks on the Web, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

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