After New York investigation, Facebook to beef up safety

Facebook will take steps to better police itself following an New York Attorney General 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 (AG) Andrew Cuomo.

Facebook users can now report complaints about pornography, harassment or inappropriate contact either by clicking on links on the Web site or by sending email to the abuse@facebook.com address. The company will respond to these complaints within 24 hours, and it will allow an independent examiner appointed with the approval of the New York AG, to monitor the company's compliance for the next two years.

The social networking site has been in hot water with attorneys general throughout the U.S. over perceptions it is a haven for pornography and sexual predators. Late last month, the New York AG's office subpoenaed Facebook documents and sent CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter detailing preliminary findings of an investigation into Facebook's safety measures.

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, Cuomo's office said.

Not all attorneys general were satisfied with the New York settlement. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that more needed to be done.

His office issued a statement calling for Facebook to add age and identity verification for users 18 and older, filtering technology that would weed out inappropriate content, and a variety of other steps to protect minors.

"New York's settlement with Facebook is a step forward, but giant strides are needed to make the site safer," Blumenthal said in the statement. "We will explore all options -- including possible legal action."

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service

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