Facebook Settles New York Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Investigation

Facebook will step up the policing of pornography, harassment and inappropriate behavior on its social networking site, settling a consumer fraud investigation by New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. Investigators posing as minors on Facebook were repeatedly solicited by adult predators, and the site did a poor job of responding to complaints from investigators posing as minors or their parents.

The settlement implements a new model to enforce safeguards aimed at protecting its network members, especially children and adolescents, from sexual predators, obscene content and harassment.

Under the terms of the agreement Facebook will, amongst other steps: (1) accept complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact confidentially via hyperlinks placed throughout Facebook’s website as well as via an independent email to abuse@facebook.com; (2) respond to and begin addressing complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact within 24 hours; (3) report to the complainant the steps it has taken to address the complaint within 72 hours where the complaint has been submitted via an independent email to abuse@facebook.com, and (4) provide a prominent and easily accessible hyperlink to allow a Facebook user or their parent/guardian to give feedback to the Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE) (an independent examiner appointed with the Attorney General’s approval to monitor Facebook’s compliance for the next 2 years) about Facebook’s performance in responding to complaints.

Consistent with the trend of the police giving priority to pursuing Internet predators, a proposed Nassau County, New York law would require convicted sex offenders to submit to cyber-monitoring of their on-line activities as a condition of probation. Under the proposed law, sexual offenders would have to register every computer they use and consent to having the monitoring device on the computers. The devices are presently used in localities in about 35 states.

The devices can send instant e-mails to probation officials if they detect certain phrases, such as victims name, or sexual references. Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, attended the news conference and said sexual predators trolling for young victims on the Internet have moved beyond social networking sites used by children. “Now they’re doing something else, which is even more horrendous,” she said. “They’re going onto adult, on-line dating sites, looking in profiles for single women with children and then targeting those women” to get to the kids, she said.

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