Social networking restrictions introduced to Congress

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A Pennsylvania congressman has introduced legislation that would essentially prevent minors from legally viewing social networking websites, such as popular MySpace and Facebook, in schools and libraries.

The Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., would require schools and libraries to implement security measures that "prevent students from being exposed to obscene and objectionable material," according to a statement from the congressman.

Nearly 80 million people belong to MySpace, one of the web’s most visited sites, and members can be as young as 14 years old. Many member profiles contain names, photographs and contact information, a possible magnet for sexual predators, Fitzpatrick’s statement said.

"As the father of six children, I hear about these websites on a daily basis," Fitzpatrick said. "However, the majority of these networking sites lack proper controls to protect their younger users. Also, many parents lack the resources to protect their children from online predators. My legislation seeks to change that."

In addition to addressing the networking sites in schools and libraries, the legislation also would require the Federal Trade Commission to create a resource website for parents, and the agency also would be responsible for issuing any consumer alerts about predators.

Rick Lane, vice president of government affairs at News Corp., the parent company of MySpace, did not directly address the proposed legislation in a statement.

But he said: "MySpace is committed to the safety and security of its community. We have been working collaboratively on security and safety issues with an array of government agencies, law enforcement and educational groups, non-profits and leading child safety organizations."

"We’ve also met with several state and federal legislators and are working with them to address their concerns," he added. "We hope this healthy dialogue will continue."

On May 1, Hemanshu "Hemu" Nigam took over as MySpace’s first chief security officer to help safeguard the online community. He formerly worked as director of consumer security outreach and child-safe computing at Microsoft.

In addition to the hiring, MySpace has begun promoting online safety through a number of public service announcements, some of which appear as pop-ups on the site.

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