Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Fox Interactive Media (FIM)

  1.  MySpace, a unit of Fox Interactive Media Inc. (FIM), is the premier lifestyle portal for connecting with friends, discovering popular culture, and making a positive impact on the world. By integrating web profiles, blogs, instant messaging, email, music streaming, music videos, photo galleries, classified listings, events, groups, college communities, and member forums, MySpace has created a connected community. As the first-ranked web domain in terms of page views, MySpace is the most widely used and highly regarded site of its kind and is committed to providing the highest quality member experience. MySpace will continue to innovate with new features that allow its members to express their creativity and share their lives, both online and off. MySpace's international network includes 20 localized community sites in the United States, Canada, UK, Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Latin America, Mexico, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. FIM is a division of News Corporation.

  2.  FIM is committed to making the Internet a safer environment for teens and people of all ages. We look forward to working with the Culture, Media and Sports Committee, the Byron Review, the Prime Minister, and all relevant UK government ministries and agencies to address issues of interest. The following highlights some of the most notable advancements MySpace has made to enhance safety on its Site for all of its members and visitors.

  3.  MySpace's global corporate headquarters are in the United States given its initial launch and growth in the U.S. MySpace has developed a close, cooperative working relationship with the United States government and law enforcement, and we are committed to developing similar relationships with governments and law enforcement in countries where we localize our Sites. In the UK, we have worked collaboratively with different branches of the government and law enforcement. MySpace has participated in the ongoing discussions related to the Home Office Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet, is a member of the DCFS Cyberbullying Task Force, and has had numerous discussions with relevant UK ministries.

  4.  For example, MySpace is pleased to note that following discussions we had with Home Office officials in February 2007, the then-Home Secretary John Reid announced his support for making key features of the Sex Offenders' Register available to those involved in efforts to promote online safety. Jim Gamble, Chief Executive Officer of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, also expressed his strong support for this idea. Subsequently, at the conclusion of the Review of the Protection of Children from Sex Offenders, in June 2007, the government announced its intention to "Extend the information that offenders must provide when on the Sex Offenders Register to include for example email addresses...." The availability of such data would, of course, be essential to any policy of the kind being discussed last February.

  5.  MySpace is now engaged in further discussions with Home Office officials on taking this policy further in the UK. We would also like to see sex offenders required to register any IM tags or any chat identifiers they might use.

  6.  MySpace has also engaged with the UK's Office of the Information Commissioner to explore ways of providing information to the public related to data protection and privacy in the context of social networking. A central component of MySpace's efforts is transferring, as closely as possible, safety features that society follows in the physical world to the online world. More specifically, MySpace believes in and proposes a comprehensive approach that involves the following elements working together:

    —  Site-specific safety features, policies, and practices to address illegal and otherwise harmful content;

    —  Cooperation with law enforcement and collaboration to the extent permitted by law;

    —  Engaged and informed parents with access to tools to protect their children;

    —  Easy to use tools for members to protect themselves and their privacy and to report any abusive contact or content;

    —  Robust safety educational information available to members;

    —  Strong online safety legislation; and

    —  Collaboration with organizations that further promote online safety and education.

  7.  MySpace's safety program starts with a staff with a strong background in law enforcement and Internet safety issues. Its head is Hemanshu Nigam, a former U.S. Department of Justice Internet crimes prosecutor who also has held executive-level security positions at Microsoft and the Motion Picture Association of America. MySpace is supported by an international team of professionals devoted to online safety. The MySpace global safety initiatives and law enforcement coordination are overseen by Jennifer Mardosz, also a former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor who specialized in Internet crimes against children. In the UK, MySpace has a safety and security manager, Chris Atkinson, who has over 10 years of experience in child protection and Internet education awareness. Furthermore, MySpace has engaged renowned child protection advocate, John Carr, as a consultant on online safety issues in the UK. Carr has a wide range of experience in this area, serving as Secretary of the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, and as the former Head of the Children & Technology Unit at NCH, as well as other positions in the field. MySpace also has two dedicated safety personnel in Australia and is currently hiring safety personnel in France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries.

  FIM, through its activities on MySpace, has pro-actively sought to improve online safety by adopting and continuing to advance the safety features described below.


    —  Email Verification: MySpace requires that users register with a valid email address, which is authenticated via email response. This helps law enforcement track down potential criminals by removing some of the anonymity of individuals by associating them with an actual email address.

    —  Monitoring Age Limits: MySpace's Terms of Use restrict the use of the Site to members 14 years of age and over. While there is currently no effective age verification mechanism due to technical, legal, and data challenges, MySpace has adopted a number of technical solutions and procedures to enforce the age restriction. For example, the MySpace registration page requires prospective members to enter their exact birth date, and individuals who enter a date that does not meet the requisite age are not permitted to register.

    To combat a situation where a teen under 14 lies about his or her age, MySpace employs a search algorithm, utilizing several thousand terms commonly used by underage users, to find and delete underage profiles. The Site is scanned for such terms, and the database of search terms is updated to reflect changes in user behavior and terminology.

    Profiles that have been reported by MySpace members or parents as belonging to an underage user also are reviewed by MySpace. Whenever an underage user is identified, the profile is deleted. MySpace similarly will remove members if we believe they are over 18 and they represent themselves as under 18.

    —  Privacy Settings: All users have the option to set their profiles to private and profiles of users aged 14 and 15 are automatically set to private. The privacy setting for users aged 14 and 15 prohibits any unsolicited contact or communication with users not given the status of friend who are over the age of 15. If a user chooses to override this setting, the user will see specific safety tips about the disclosure of personally identifiable information, and will be required to confirm the choice to change this setting. Even if the default privacy setting is overridden, the profile is only viewable by the user's friends and other users under 18. Users 18 and over can only become "friends" with users aged 14 and 15 if they know the younger user's last name or email address.

    Additionally, users under 18 can block users 18 and over from contacting them or viewing their profiles and, alternatively, users 18 and over can block users under 18 from contacting them or viewing their profiles. All users also can conceal their `online now' status, and can pre-approve all comments before being posted to their blogs.

    —  Tools for Engaging Users: MySpace offers users methods to report inappropriate content to MySpace. Specifically, throughout the Site there are links to "Contact MySpace" and a link to "Report Abuse" at the bottom of every MySpace user's profile. MySpace also has in the U.S. safety pages that include tips for users and parents. MySpace currently is developing a resource page dedicated to UK contacts and law enforcement.

    —  Image Review: MySpace is diligent in reviewing its Site for inappropriate content, reviewing each image and video that is uploaded to the MySpace server for compliance with the Terms of Use and Photo policy (which prohibit nudity, pornography, and sexually explicit images).[2] If an image violates MySpace Terms of Use, the image and possibly the entire profile are deleted. Hashing technology is also used to prevent inappropriate images from being uploaded a second time, after they have already been identified as inappropriate. MySpace is exploring the use of hashing technology for use in video uploads.

    In the United States, MySpace also gives users the ability to report sexually   explicit (including child pornography) conduct directly to the National Center for   Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC's) CyberTipLine. (MySpace of   course reports any and all child pornography to NCMEC independent of user   reports.)

    —  Dedicated Team for Customer Care: Sensitive issues such as cyberbullying, impostor profiles, and harassment are handled by a special Customer Care team.

    —  Screening Out Registered Sex Offenders: As noted above, MySpace is committed to transferring safety features from the physical world into the online setting. For example, in the United States, convicted sex offenders are required to register their physical addresses on publicly availably sex offender registries. MySpace recently partnered with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. to build a database, called "Sentinel SAFE," which compiles all the registries into one centralized searchable database. We are currently comparing the Sentinel SAFE database against the MySpace database so we can remove registered sex offenders from our Site. We are deleting the sex offenders' profiles and preserving the information so it can be used, if relevant, in a criminal investigation. MySpace would welcome the opportunity to discuss the feasibility of the extension of this program into the UK.

    —  AMBER Alerts: In the U.S., NCMEC developed a system to send emergency notifications to local communities via traditional communications (radio and television) when a child becomes missing. MySpace has partnered with NCMEC to distribute localized online AMBER alerts via MySpace to help bring a missing child home as soon as possible. MySpace would like to explore finding ways to extend the UK's AMBER Alert program into the online world.

    —  Parental Verification Software: MySpace is currently developing free parental verification software that, once downloaded onto a computer, is expected to identify users who log into MySpace from that computer. The software will reveal user-provided information (age, user name, and hometown) to parents so they will know whether their child has a MySpace profile and what age the child has claimed to be regardless of the computer that the child subsequently uses to log in to the Site.

    —  Preventing Teens from Accessing Age-Inappropriate Content: MySpace restricts the ability of younger users to access age-inappropriate content. For example, advertisements for age-inappropriate products or services (eg, online dating, tobacco, or alcohol) are not displayed to users under 18. Users under 18 are also denied access to age-inappropriate areas such as Romance & Relationship chat, forums, and groups; all groups designated as Mature; and Classified categories such as Personals and Casting Calls.


  MySpace has developed a comprehensive Law Enforcement Guide for U.S. law enforcement to explain how to obtain the information they need from MySpace for their investigations. The Guide describes what type of information is available and the mechanisms by which law enforcement may lawfully request it. MySpace also maintains a 24/7 dedicated hotline and email address for use solely by law enforcement. MySpace is currently preparing an international law enforcement guide, which will include information for UK law enforcement, specifically outlining the legal processes by which UK law enforcement can obtain information from MySpace.

  MySpace is also hiring safety personnel on the ground in many countries outside the U.S. where it operates localized sites. In the UK, Chris Atkinson serves as MySpace's law enforcement liaison, assisting UK police forces with their requests for information from MySpace in law enforcement investigations. She has also provided training to UK law enforcement officials and provided input to training courses, including a CEOP-hosted course, to ensure that police officers are familiar with MySpace and know how to report any concerns. MySpace has also worked in partnership with the CEOP and the police to facilitate communication in cases where young people have been reported missing.

  If MySpace discovers any child pornography or receives any predator-related reports, it promptly reports such information to NCMEC, as required under U.S. law. MySpace then locks the profile so that the user is unable to make any changes to or access the profile. NCMEC then provides the information to law enforcement so that the authorities can investigate accordingly. Any child pornography that appears to be uploaded from a user in a country other than the U.S., would be reported to that country's law enforcement via NCMEC.


  MySpace believes that one of the best ways to fight sexual predators on the Internet is to recognize that the web is every bit a neighborhood as our cities and towns and modernize our laws. MySpace is very interested in working with government and legislators to promote legislation that is aimed at fighting sexual predator activity on the web. To date, these efforts have been focused on the state legislatures and federal government in the United States, but MySpace recognizes that the Internet is an international neighborhood. Consequently, MySpace welcomes the opportunity to discuss the possibility of working with appropriate agencies in the UK to analyze the feasibility of pursuing a similar strategy as that described below.

    —  Email Registration for Sex Offenders: In the United States, sex offender registries require registration only of physical addresses. MySpace is advocating that those sex offenders also be required to register their email addresses, instant messaging (IM) and chat identifiers with the registries. That way, MySpace and other websites can then use that information to keep convicted sex offenders from signing up on their site. However, if a registered sex offender uses a false or unregistered email address, IM or chat identifier, they would face criminal penalties. Eleven states in the U.S. have passed such legislation and it has been introduced into numerous others. Recently, the U.S Council of State Governments adopted sex offender email registry legislation as a "model bill," with the likelihood of U.S. state adoption more broadly in 2008.

    —  Misrepresentation of Age to Solicit Minors Online: MySpace also supports legislation that makes it a crime for an adult Internet user to lie about their age with the intent to solicit a minor online for sexual purposes.


  MySpace is a firm believer in the power of user education and collaborative outreach in the pursuit of improved online safety and has, therefore, worked with law enforcement, schools, community groups, and Internet users. These are essential steps, and as MySpace becomes increasingly popular outside the United States, it will continue to pursue and foster these relationships with non-U.S. law enforcement agencies, education groups, NGOs and community representatives.

    —  Law Enforcement: MySpace provides training to U.S. cybercrime units on how to investigate and prosecute cybercriminals using MySpace. As noted above, MySpace has participated in CEOP-sponsored events in the UK, and is developing UK-specific law enforcement guidance.

    —  Parents and Teens: MySpace provides extensive educational resources for parents and teens on its Site, including links to safety tips for parents and users that appear at the bottom of every page of the Site. The user safety tips provide guidelines on how to use MySpace safely. The parent safety tips are designed to educate parents about MySpace and how to help their teens make safe decisions in relation to their use of online communities. It also encourages parents to talk with their kids about how they communicate with others and how they represent themselves on MySpace. Additionally, it provides parents with step-by-step instructions detailing how to remove their teen's profile from MySpace if they so desire, and links to free software that enables parents to monitor or block their teen's use of the Internet, including blocking MySpace. MySpace also provides a link for parents to purchase a book entitled "MySpace Unravelled", written by renowned online safety experts Larry Magid and Anne Collier, which reviews safety on MySpace specifically for parents.

    —  European Education Initiative: MySpace has been working with 13 other multi-national technology and telecommunications companies as part of a newly formed industry partnership with a European education organization called European Schoolnet (EUN) to deliver a coordinated set of education and awareness materials aimed at teachers across Europe. This initiative represents the industry coming together and working with one clear set of communications to deliver a cohesive set of resources to:

    —Support teachers in Europe to understand Web 2.0 and converging Internet/mobile services such as social networking and user-generated content;

    —Provide materials for teachers to address current difficulties related to issues such as cyberbullying, responsible use, privacy and personal safety;

    —Enable teachers to distribute information and resources to parents, children and wider school communities;

    —Support parents and caregivers in safeguarding their children's use of new technology; and

    —Provide core materials in main European languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian) and localization toolkits for other languages.

    —  NGO Partnerships: MySpace is also involved with, and dedicates resources to help, non-governmental organizations on Internet safety issues. Some U.S.-based safety organizations include, NCMEC, Enough is Enough, and Connect Safely. MySpace is developing a similar strategy for outreach within the UK.

    —  Media Outreach: MySpace, through its parent company FIM, has an extensive media reach and has used these abilities to increase public awareness about online safety. MySpace has also launched Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on Internet safety through FIM's media platforms and other platforms targeted at children. This has included News Corporation and MySpace engagement in the largest PSA campaigns on Internet safety with NCMEC as well as the development of celebrity-based multimedia PSA campaigns on Internet safety via multiple media outlets, in addition to online PSAs. Also as part of this effort, FIM partnered with Common Sense Media and the PTA to launch a national television PSA campaign featuring "24" star Kiefer Sutherland. MySpace is planning similar outreach activities to be deployed within the UK.


  MySpace is committed to a continued public private partnership, and in connection with that commitment we are working with law enforcement, governments, and NGOs in the myriad of ways described above, including promoting the adoption of site-specific safety measures, a targeted legislative strategy, and collaborative efforts. To this end, MySpace finalized a "Joint Agreement" with the State Attorneys General in the United States that will enhance the safety functionality on the site across jurisdictions. A copy of the "Joint Agreement" is attached to this submission (along with two documents summarizing the agreement, see Appendix I, II, III). We also support the ongoing efforts of the Prime Minister, all relevant UK government ministries and agencies, the Byron Review and the Parliament, including this review of the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport to address Internet safety. We look forward to a continued dialogue and increased cooperation on these issues.

February 2008

2   In addition, and of relevance here, the Terms of Use prohibit content that: is patently offensive and promotes racism, bigotry, hatred, or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual; harasses or advocates harassment of another person; exploits people in a sexual or violent manner; contains nudity, excessive violence, or offensive subject matter or contains a link to an adult website; solicits personal information from anyone under 18; provides any telephone numbers, street addresses, last names, URLs, or email addresses; promotes information that the user knows is false or misleading, or promotes illegal activities or conduct that is abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory, or libelous; promotes an illegal or unauthorized copy of another person's copyrighted work; involves the transmission of "junk mail" "chain letters", or unsolicited mass mailing, instant messaging, "spimming", or "spamming"; furthers or promotes any criminal activity or enterprise or provides instructional information about illegal activities; solicits passwords or personal identifying information for commercial or unlawful purposes from other users; includes a photograph of another person that is posted without that person's consent; or for band and filmmaker profiles, uses sexually suggestive imagery or any other unfair, misleading, or deceptive content intended to draw traffic to the profile. Back

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