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Facebook, N.Y. attorney general reach agreement on safeguards

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Posted: October 16, 2007 8:55 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2007 5:04 a.m.
    NEW YORK — New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement with the social networking Web site Facebook on Tuesday to protect underage members from sexual predators and obscene content.
    Under the agreement, Facebook will speed up its process for addressing complaints of inappropriate content or unwelcome contact, and an independent monitor approved by Cuomo’s office will oversee Facebook’s compliance with the safeguards for two years.
    ‘‘These social networking sites are attractive. We want to make sure they’re safe,’’ Cuomo said.
    Under the agreement, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which has about 47 million users, will have to post the safety procedures on its site.
    ‘‘We care deeply about our Facebook users and today we pledge a solution,’’ said Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer for Facebook, who joined Cuomo at a news conference at Cuomo’s Manhattan office. ‘‘We believe that safety is an ongoing process.’’
    Cuomo said the settlement recognizes that parents share in the responsibility to shield their children from inappropriate Web content. His office began investigating the Web site after receiving complaints.
    The disclosure section on Facebook’s site will say, ‘‘Facebook cannot guarantee that its site is entirely free of illegal, offensive, pornographic or otherwise inappropriate material, or that its members will not encounter or inappropriate or illegal conduct from other members,’’ he said.
    ‘‘It puts the parent on notice, frankly, so the parent makes the decision and the parent exercises his or her best judgment,’’ Cuomo said.
    Kelly said Facebook receives as many as tens of thousands of complaints in a day. With the agreement, complaints about inappropriate content will be pushed to the top of the queue. Facebook will have to respond to complaints about nudity or pornography or unwelcome contact within 24 hours and report the steps it has taken to the complainant within 72 hours.
    Cuomo said the agreement was distinct from an ongoing effort by the attorneys general of all 50 states to impose age-verification requirements and other safeguards on social networking sites.
    Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement, ‘‘New York’s settlement with Facebook is a step forward, but giant strides are needed to make the site safer.’’
    ‘‘We will demand that Facebook take powerful, practical measures — age and identity verification, parental consent, purging inappropriate content, restrictions on minor access to inappropriate material,’’ said Blumenthal, who co-chairs a task force on social networking sites with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
    A spokesman for Facebook did not immediately return a call seeking a response to Blumenthal’s comments.

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