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May 08, 2008

LITTLE ROCK- The attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia today announced that Facebook has agreed to changes to better protect children from predators and inappropriate content and to participate in a task force on implementation of age and identity verification software.

Since 2006, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper have led a working group of state attorneys general seeking to make social networking safer. Along with Connecticut and North Carolina, the multistate group's Executive Committee includes Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The agreement is similar to one that MySpace reached in January with 49 states and the District of Columbia. MySpace agreed to head a task force, which Facebook has joined, to explore and develop age and identity identification tools for social networking sites.

Changes agreed to by Facebook include providing automatic warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult; restricting the ability of users to change their listed ages; acting more aggressively to remove inappropriate content and groups from the site and requiring third party vendors to adhere to Facebook's safety and privacy guidelines.

"I am pleased to see that Facebook is taking these necessary first steps," McDaniel said. "We must continue working on more ways to better protect our youth from those who want to harm them."

Under the changes, the first time a Facebook user wants to change his or her age, website staff will review their profile to determine whether the change is appropriate.

In addition, companies offering Facebook users services -- called "widgets" -- will now have to implement and enforce Facebook's safety and privacy guidelines.

Facebook also has agreed to maintain a list of pornographic websites and regularly sever any links to such sites. It will remove groups for incest, pedophilia, cyberbullying and other violations of the site's terms of services, as well as expel from the site individual violators of those terms.

Facebook also will:

• More prominently display safety tips;
• Require users under 18 to affirm they have read Facebook's safety tips when they sign up;
• Regularly review models for abuse reporting and perform a test using the New Jersey Attorney General's abuse reporting icon.