Social site to shield minors

Times Staff Writer

Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia to protect the safety of users, particularly young ones, much as rival social network MySpace Inc. did four months ago.

Facebook will use technology that verifies users' ages and will restrict the ability of users to change their ages on the site. It also will dispatch warnings when a minor may be giving personal information to an adult he or she does not know and take other steps, the Palo Alto company said.

Facebook also agreed to become involved with an Internet safety task force.

The company's chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, said the site already had many safety features in place and that the agreement was another step in its mission to enhance privacy.

The lone holdout among the states was Texas, which also didn't sign on to the plan that MySpace, owned by News Corp., sealed with attorneys general in January. "We are in a continuing dialogue with the state of Texas," Kelly said.

In October Facebook found itself caught in a media firestorm when New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed the company, saying an undercover operation found that it had responded too slowly to complaints of harassment and inappropriate conduct. Facebook reached an agreement with Cuomo later that month.

This week Facebook added an experienced executive to help wrestle with public policy issues. It hired Elliot Schrage, Google Inc.'s vice president of global communications and public policy.

"We have invested a great deal of effort to build a safer, more trusted environment," Kelly said.


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