NY blasts Facebook over sexual predators, subpoenas docs

New York's attorney general is investigating Facebook for allegedly not doing enough to protect minors from predators on the social networking site.

Facebook's safety controls and procedures are deficient and fail to properly protect minors from adult sexual predators in the company's social-networking site, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged Monday.

Cuomo's office has sent Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter detailing preliminary findings of an investigation into Facebook's safety measures and requesting via a subpoena a series of company documents.

The subpoena calls for Facebook to submit complaints it has received regarding inappropriate solicitation of underage users and inappropriate content on the site, as well as any responses generated by the company.

Facebook also has to produce all of its policies "on user safety and all representations made to consumers about the safety of the site," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

Early results of the ongoing investigation reveal that the description of Facebook's safety measures is far from reality. In recent weeks, investigators from Cuomo's office posing on the site as minors have been repeatedly solicited by adult predators. The investigators were also able to access a wide range of pornographic images and videos.

To add insult to injury, Facebook either didn't respond or responded slowly to complaints from the investigators posing as either harrassed minors or their parents, according to Cuomo's office. Facebook reacted in similar ways to complaints about inappropriate images displayed on the site.

Overall, Cuomo takes issue with Facebook's assertion that its social-networking site is safe and suggests that Facebook may be in violation of New York laws for misleading public statements and advertising.

Facebook said in a statement that it takes the concerns of Cuomo's office "very seriously" and that it is committed to working closely with all state attorneys general on safety matters.

"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," the company said.

U.S. state attorneys general are turning up the heat on Facebook, MySpace and online social networks in general, concerned that sexual predators are using these sites to stalk and victimize minors while site operators do little to prevent this from happening.

In May, News Corp.'s MySpace agreed to provide attorneys general offices in all U.S. states with information it has gathered on convicted sex offenders who have used its social networking site.

The decision followed a tussle between MySpace and the AG offices, several of which had complained MySpace had resisted sharing sex offender data with them.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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