Facebook faces challenge from sex predators

Summary:MySpace isn't the only social networking site to come under fire as a haven of sex offenders, reports Reuters. Facebook is facing a similar crisis, as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal claimed "at least three" convicted sex offenders hang out on Facebook site -- and that may just be the "tip of the iceberg.

MySpace isn't the only social networking site to come under fire as a haven of sex offenders, reports Reuters. Facebook is facing a similar crisis, as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal claimed "at least three" convicted sex offenders hang out on Facebook site -- and that may just be the "tip of the iceberg."

"These individuals are using their real names after convictions for felony sexual offenses," Blumenthal told Reuters. "There may be thousands or hundreds of thousands using aliases or false identities who have never been convicted."

Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly said Facebook's privacy features separate it from other services. In particular, Facebook protects users under 18 by preventing adults from contacting them if the adults are not affiliated with a specific school network, Kelly said.

While admitting a few predators are on the network, it is far from the "hundreds of thousands" that Blumenthal posits.

"There is a non-zero number. We have been able to handle abuses with the accountability of having a real-name culture versus a 'screen-name' culture," he said. "There is no city in existence, let alone one that has 33 million citizens, that doesn't have occasional crime," Kelly said. "The question is: Does the site make it easier or harder to commit crimes and what does it do to address them?"

The fact that MySpace never did age-based segmentation has caused a lot of their problems. MySpace recently said they had deleted 29,000 sex offenders from the site with technology from Sentinel.

"It's when adults and kids play in the same space that things get sticky and the effectiveness of age verification seems to go out the window," Sentinel CEO and founder John Cardillo said of the dilemma facing social networks.

Facebook is also looking at outside consultants to provide further protection from predators.

"It is better to have some sort of verification on the front end and various forms of behavioral verification on the back end," Kelly said of Facebook's approach to site safety.

Topics: Government : US, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.