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Zuckerberg: Give me your children

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Mark Zuckerberg has revealed his determination to allow under-13s onto Facebook, whatever politicians, regulators and the rest of the grownups say.

Speaking at an education summit in the US, the 27-year-old said the "educational benefits" of his social network made it a must-visit site for everyone old enough to push a mouse.

"My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age,” the Telegraph reports Zuckerberg as saying.

“Because of the [legal] restrictions we haven't even begun this learning process. If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works."

He went on to say “This will be a fight we take on at some point." Presumably Zucks is already secure in his right to party.

Zuckerberg is clearly speaking from the heart, and we wonder whether he was hamstrung as a child in his efforts to explore the far reaches of America Online or Compuserve.

However, he faces a number of hurdles in achieving his dream of letting pre-schoolers preserve their dislike of vegetables or informing 12-year-olds that the rest of the class think they stink for digital posterity.

In the UK, the site operates a voluntary agreement not to register under-13-year-olds. But this is just a mirror of US laws aimed at protecting children's digital privacy.

So Zuckerberg will have to convince the US legislature that his site is a suitable destination for the youth - a legislature that is arguably more conservative than the one that enacted the 1998 law.

In the UK, he'll have to convince an array of pressure groups and NGOs that he really has the kids' best interests at heart. Given the site's entanglements with CEOP over the inclusion of a help button, this might be a stretch.

And that's before he tries to convince parents that it's a good idea to appoint Facebook as the backup babysitter.

But just think of the educational benefits. Get the kid signed up at eight and by the time they reach adulthood and are ready to go to college, advertisers will have been fully educated as to their likes and dislikes and will be able to make a pretty good guess as to what kind of consumer they are likely to turn into. ®

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