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MySpace, Florida agree on site safeguards

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By EVAN S. BENN
ebenn@MiamiHerald.com

Florida is among 49 states and the District of Columbia that announced an agreement Monday with social networking giant MySpace.com to clamp down on misuse by sexual predators on the site.

MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and claims more than 100 million members, agreed to add several protections, including a way to verify the ages of users. The pact was announced in Manhattan; Texas was the only state that did not participate.

''MySpace has worked closely with Florida for some time now,'' said Sandi Copes, spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. ``We appreciate what they're doing to protect our children on the Internet and protect our future.''

MySpace officials noted in a news release that Florida has been a leader in keeping children safe online.

''Florida was one of the first states in the nation to enact laws requiring convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses so social networking sites can block them from their communities,'' MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam wrote.

Among other measures, MySpace agreed to:

• Allow parents to submit children's e-mail addresses to MySpace to prevent anyone from misusing the addresses.

• Make the default setting ''private'' for 16- and 17-year-old users.

• Respond within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and devote more staff and resources to classify photographs and discussion groups.

• Strengthen software to find underage users.

• Create a high school section for users under 18.

Investigators have increasingly examined MySpace, Facebook.com and other sites where people post information and images and invite contact from other people.

New York investigators said they set up Facebook profiles last year as 12- to 14-year olds and were quickly contacted by other users looking for sex.

''I encourage other social networking sites to adopt many of the design changes announced by MySpace today,'' McCollum said Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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