MySpace Moves to Protect Kids Under mounting pressure from law enforcement and parents, MySpace promises to take steps to protect young people from sexual predators and bullies.

MySpace Moves to Protect Kids

MySpace Moves to Protect Kids

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Under mounting pressure from law enforcement and parents, MySpace promises to take steps to protect young people from sexual predators and bullies.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. It's news, information and your home for late-breaking Kucinich debate news. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

And I'm Rachel Martin. It is January 15th, 2008.

And it looks like Dennis Kucinich will be in the debates tonight.

STEWART: Or he might not be in the debates tonight. I don't know if you heard this, but a Nevada judge ordered NBC News to include Representative Dennis Kucinich in this Democratic debate tonight in Nevada.

MARTIN: Yeah.

STEWART: But NBC is appealing that…

MARTIN: It's just so (unintelligible).

STEWART: …saying they disagree with the judge's decision. They're filing an appeal saying he really didn't have jurisdiction over this.

MARTIN: But apparently, Congressman Kucinich is still going.

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STEWART: See, you're in. You're out. So we'll see tonight. You're going to have to tune in. I'm not just saying that because I worked there sometimes. I want to see if Dennis Kucinich gets a podium.

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STEWART: Coming up on show today, the president of the United States is continuing his tour of the Middle East - actually, he's wrapping it up. He's been there since - left like on January 8th, I believe.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: He's in Saudi Arabia right now, where it's a little after three in the afternoon. A lot of headlines about the $120 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia. We'll dig into it with the reporter who is on the road with the president.

MARTIN: Also, the North American Auto Show is in full swing. The auto industry thinks this is important. Detroit does, too. What about you? Why should you care? Well, we're going to try to make you care later on this hour.

STEWART: And singer KT Tunstall, she came by our studios yesterday with this equipment.

MARTIN: Oh, there's so much stuff.

STEWART: And the singers. It was an extravaganza. And we'll bring it to you a little later on in the show. Her latest album is called "Drastic Fantastic."

We'll also go to our guest newscaster Celeste Headlee for today's headlines in just a moment.

But first, here is the BPP's Big Story.

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STEWART: MySpace sets a new safety standard, following pressure from law enforcement and parents around the country. MySpace says it will attempt to protect younger users from online sexual predators and cyber bullies.

MARTIN: MySpace will create a taskforce of industry professionals to improve the safety of its 110 million worldwide active users, and it will invite other social networking sites to participate. The site has already began reviewing all the images on MySpace and deleting those that are deemed pornographic.

Here's the company's chief security officer, Hemu Nigam.

Mr. HEMU NIGAM (Chief Security Officer, MySpace): Over the last year it's - we have implemented over, actually, over a hundred different safety features, designs and programs across our company. And that's tremendous step forward, but what we're doing here is actually now taking those steps and saying it's time to go to the next level.

STEWART: The agreement between MySpace and 49 state attorneys-general was announced yesterday.

Here is North Carolina's AG, Roy Copper.

Attorney General ROY COOPER (North Carolina): We believe that the fastest way to implement this technology is to do it in a cooperative effort.

STEWART: Okay, here come some of the details. Under the agreement, profile for users under 16 will not be available to strangers. People over 18 won't be able to add anyone under 16 as a friend unless they have their last name or their e-mail address. And parents will also be able to prevent their kids from setting up profiles.

MARTIN: Now the only thing not joining in this whole thing is Texas. Their AG, Greg Abbott, cited the lack of an age verification system in the agreement. And experts say that issue, being able to determine how old the MySpace user is, that will be one of the toughest issues this new taskforce will have to tackle.

STEWART: Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, a children's Internet safety group says, quote, "There's no system that will work for age verification without putting kids at risk." Aftab, an attorney herself, believes the agreement is a good first step, but could have unforeseen consequences, and explains, quote, "Age verification requires that you have a database of kids, and if you do, that database is available to hackers and anyone who can get into it."

MARTIN: She estimates that 20 percent of teens have met someone online that they've never met in person. And just yesterday prosecutors in New York City announced that two girls younger than 15 were lured via MySpace to the home of a couple who allegedly gave them alcohol and engaged them in sexual activities and took them to a strip club, were the girls apparently performed onstage.

STEWART: Well, attorneys general who came to the agreement with MySpace say they are pleased with the results. Lawsuits against the company remain possible.

STEWART: That is the BPP's Big Story.

Now we are pleased to welcome Celeste Headlee. She has even more news.

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