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Safety Experts: MySpace Changes Not Enough

New security measures for young users of MySpace.com won't be enough to stop online child predators, safety experts warned Wednesday.
( [email protected] ) Jun 22, 2006 08:41 PM EDT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - New security measures for young users of MySpace.com won't be enough to stop online child predators, safety experts warned Wednesday.

Starting next week, the popular online social network will restrict adult access to the information teenagers post about themselves.

MySpace users who are 18 or over could no longer request to be on a 14- or 15-year-old's friends' list unless they already know either the youth's e-mail address or full name. That means they won't have access to personal information on their profiles.

"They're going to lie about their ages," said Monique Nelson, executive vice president of online safety advocate Web Wise Kids. "There's no way to check age verification. In that respect, I don't think that's going to be very effective."

MySpace security director Hemanshu Nigam said the site, owned by News Corp., is committed to increasing online safety, particularly among 14 and 15 year olds.

"MySpace remains dedicated to a multi-pronged approach that also involves education and collaboration with law enforcement, teachers, parents and members," he said in a statement.

The changes come on the heels of a $30 million lawsuit filed by the mother of a Texas teenager who claims she was raped by a man she met through the site. The lawsuit claims MySpace is negligent in protecting teen users despite numerous warnings of the dangers.

The site prohibits kids 13 and under from setting up accounts. But the Austin teenager was 13 when she set up her profile last year. MySpace has no mechanism for verifying that users submit their true age when registering.

Under the changes announced Wednesday, any user will still be able to get a partial profile of younger users by searching for other details, such as display name. The difference is that currently, adults can then request to be added to a youth's list to view the full profile; that option will disappear for adults registered as 18 and over.

Those under 18 will still be able to make contact. Without age verification, adults can sign up as teens and request to join a 14-year-old's list of friends, which would enable the full profiles.

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