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Facebook agrees to child-safety measures

Reining in Web 2.0 predators

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Facebook has reached an agreement with 50 attorneys general to permanently deploy measures designed to rein in pedophiles and other predators on the social networking site.

Under the agreement, Facebook will allow people to change their ages from over 18 to under 18 only after the move has been reviewed and is developing age-verification software aimed at identifying users who lie about their age. It will also prominently feature a "report abuse" icon that minors can use when they encounter problems and a set of safety tips juveniles will be required to read when signing up.

Facebook has also agreed to join the Internet Safety Task Force, which was formed in January after MySpace reached a similar agreement with attorneys general. The protections will be extended to Facebook's non-US users as well.

The measures, many of which are already implemented, are Facebook's attempt to make nice with the top law enforcement officials for 49 states and the District of Columbia. The trouble began in September, when New York's attorney general subpoenaed Facebook after an undercover review by his office found the Web 2.0 property routinely failed to respond to reports that adults were peppering underage users with requests for nude pictures and other sexual come-ons.

MySpace enacted similar child predator blocks in January. Both sites have long been criticized as havens for spammers, scammers and identity thieves that prey on users of all ages. But the danger faced by their younger audience took on increased urgency for obvious reasons. ®

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