MySpace to Restrict Teen/Adult Interactions

Members Can Also Now Opt to Only Display Partial Profiles

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The meteoric rise of MySpace is now being tempered by reports of sexual predators using the site as a readymade tool for finding prey. Faced with mounting pressure from parent groups and its own community to respond, MySpace is introducing restrictions on adult/teen interaction.
Because of its immense cultural footprint, such instances of MySpace-facilitated sex crimes have made it a lightning rod for the media, parent groups and law enforcement authorities.
Because of its immense cultural footprint, such instances of MySpace-facilitated sex crimes have made it a lightning rod for the media, parent groups and law enforcement authorities.

The basic aim is to make it harder for members older than 18 to befriend younger members -- even though MySpace at present has no way of verifying one's stated age.

A 14-year-old girl is presently suing the site for $30 million, claiming she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on MySpace. (MySpace is currently reviewing the lawsuit, but has not commented on it directly.) Also, in March, two men were arrested over sex charges after allegedly using the site to meet two girls under 14.

Lightning rod for criticism
Because of its immense cultural footprint, such instances of MySpace-facilitated sex crimes have made it a lightning rod for the media, parent groups and law enforcement authorities. What's more, the negative press hasn't helped efforts to improve its relationship with advertisers. MySpace responded to criticism earlier this year by appointing Hemanshu Nigam as chief security officer, and alerting members to the dangers of sexual predators with on-site ads.

The new rules prohibit members 18 and older from asking to join a 14- or 15-year-old's group of friends -- unless they already know the younger members' e-mail address or full name. Members can also request not to be contacted by anyone outside of their age group. Additionally, all members can now display either full or partial profiles, whereas previously the full profiles of anyone over 18 were available to all members. MySpace has always only allowed 14- and 15-year-olds to display full profiles to their friends.

Safe approach
MySpace has made progress in its effort to tap big ad dollars -- without alienating its community, now 85 million members strong. Pages specially designed and edited for major advertisers, including several Pepsi-Cola beverage brands, are being championed as a safe approach to social-networking sponsorship. A deal with Walt Disney Pictures to build buzz for this summer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is proving particularly successful.

Executives invested in the super-risky world of social networking are watching MySpace closely. "Sites like MySpace and YouTube are the de facto leaders of this social movement, which comes with great responsibilities and challenges," said Aaron Cohen, CEO of MySpace rival Bolt.com.
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