New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and Facebook today announced a new model to enforce safeguards aimed at protecting its network members, especially children and adolescents, from sexual predators, obscene content and harassment.
Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will begin enforcing its safety procedures promptly responding to user complaints about nudity or pornography or harassment or unwelcome contact within 24 hours, and allowing an Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE), a third party examiner, approved by the New York State Attorney General, to report on Facebook's compliance for two years. Facebook has about 47 million users.
"Social networking sites, popular among young people, have quickly gained members and appeal, but also act as a magnet for those who would prey on the young," said Cuomo. "Our agreement with Facebook offers a new model of cooperative action that balances the freedom offered by the Internet with the necessary protections for children traveling on the information superhighway."
Under the terms of the agreement Facebook will:
- Disclose the newly implemented safety procedures on its Web site as specified by the agreement. Ensure that all other public statements made by Facebook about safety are consistent with the specified language.
- Accept complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact confidentially via hyperlinks placed throughout Facebook's Web site as well as via an independent e-mail.
- Respond to and begin addressing complaints about unwelcome contact within 24 hours.
- Report to the complainant the steps it has taken to address the complaint within 72 hours where the complaint has been submitted via an independent e-mail.
- Allow Facebook's complaint review process to be examined by an Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE), a third party approved by the New York State Attorney General's Office, to report on Facebook's compliance with the agreement.
- Provide a prominent and easily accessible hyperlink to allow a Facebook user or their parent/guardian to give feedback to the Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE) about Facebook's performance in responding to complaints.
- Submit to the Office reports prepared by the Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE) evaluating Facebook's performance in responding to complaints. The Examiner will report bi-annually and may recommend additional safety measures concerning complaint handling, as appropriate.
"Privacy and safety have been a priority since we first built Facebook," said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Facebook. "Our agreement with Attorney General Cuomo will set new industry standards to stop abuse online. We applaud the Attorney General's leadership and are committed to working together to keep Facebook safe."
"I applaud Facebook for addressing my office's concerns about the site's representation that they provided a safe environment and an expeditious complaint review process," said Cuomo. "I believe our agreement will provide additional confidence to young people and parents alike and give Facebook a competitive advantage in the marketplace for setting a new standard for safety."
The settlement, designed to set the industry standards for safety, comes on the heels of a subpoena issued by the Attorney General's Office less than a month ago. Cuomo's investigators had exposed serious deficiencies in Facebook's safety controls. Investigators, posing as young teenagers, set up profiles on Facebook, received online sexual advances from adults within days, and found widespread pornographic and obscene content. Additionally, the investigation found that Facebook often failed to 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 that had harassed their children.
The agreement is designed to step up efforts to improve safety on social networking sites, which adults, teenagers and children use to post pictures of themselves, link to friends' sites and share personal information. Anyone can sign up for free by choosing a user name and password and providing an e-mail address. Users can then set up a personal page.