New York Attorney General Scrutinizes Safety of Facebook

Cuomo's Office Says Investigators Were 'Repeatedly Solicited' by Sexual Predators

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office said it is investigating safety measures at Facebook after its investigators went undercover as under-age users of the social-networking service and were repeatedly sexually solicited.
According to a statement from the attorney general's office, investigators posing as underage users 'were repeatedly solicited by adult sexual predators on Facebook.'
According to a statement from the attorney general's office, investigators posing as underage users 'were repeatedly solicited by adult sexual predators on Facebook.'

No response to complaints
According to a statement from the attorney general's office, investigators posing as underage users "were repeatedly solicited by adult sexual predators on Facebook and could easily access a wide range of pornographic images and videos." It added: "Even more disturbingly, Facebook often did not respond, and at other times was slow to respond, to complaints lodged by the investigators -- posing as parents of underage users -- asking the site to take action against predators who had harassed their children."

Among the solicitations the office received, according to the statement: "u look too hot. ... can i c u online [webcam]? im avl at ..."; "I'd love to get off on cam for you hun; "do you like sex?;" "if u want call me [number deleted] or u can give me ur number?" and "call me if u want to do sex with me [number deleted] ok."

Mr. Cuomo's office is also issuing a subpoena to Facebook for complaints received about inappropriate solicitation and content, as well as its responses to such complaints.

"We take the concerns of the office of the New York Attorney General very seriously," said Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker. "As our service continues to grow, so does our responsibility to our users to empower them with the tools necessary to communicate efficiently and safely. We strive to uphold our high standards for privacy on Facebook and are constantly working on processes and technologies that will further improve safety and user control on the site. We are committed to working closely with all the state attorneys general to maintain a trusted environment for all Facebook users and to demonstrate the efficacy of these efforts."

MySpace already targeted
Several attorneys general and state governments have already targeted MySpace, which has deleted 29,000 profiles of sexual predators, and are pushing to require age-verification measures on social networks. The North Carolina State Senate, for example, passed a bill that would require parental permission for a user to sign up for a social network, but should it pass it will almost certainly face legal scrutiny.

The investigation comes at a potentially delicate time for Facebook as it is reportedly seeking another round of financial investment. While it has shunned previous offers, including a $1 billion bid from Yahoo, it is in investment talks with Microsoft that would value Facebook at $10 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Previously, AllThingsD.com reported that Facebook was seeking additional funding.
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