MySpace Tightens Security

NEW YORK Just a few months after making headlines by hiring a chief security officer to police its millions of Web pages, is now pledging to tighten up its free-for-all social environment by limiting interaction between adults and the site’s youngest users.

The News Corp.-owned social networking platform will no longer allow its 14- and 15-year-old users to receive any contact from adults 18 and over, unless those teens know the person contacting them. Any adult that wants to contact a teen of 14 or 15 on the site must know that person’s first and last name or e-mail address (already, the site does not allow anyone under the age of 14 from registering).

Such a public move by MySpace, which is something of a phenomenon among teens and young adults, is clearly aimed at fighting off its growing reputation as a haven for predators seeking vulnerable teens. A growing chorus of complaints, along with several criminal investigations, forced the company to hire former federal prosecutor Hemanshu Nigam back in April.

“With social networking becoming a mainstream platform for millions of people to connect with one another and express themselves, MySpace is committed to innovating new product features to heighten online safety, particularly in the area of 14 to 15 year olds,” said Nigam. “In addition to technology innovation, MySpace remains dedicated to a multi-pronged approach that also involves education and collaboration with law enforcement, teachers, parents and members.”

Beyond the newly announced age restrictions, Nigam’s team said that all members of MySpace would now have the option to make their profiles private, only to be viewed by designated friends and family members or users within their own age group. One of the attractions of MySpace, and one of its potential dangers, was that virtually all of its user profile pages were open for anyone to view at any time.