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CyberSitter Skeptical

CEO Questions MySpace Dedication to Online Safety

CyberSitter promotional photo

The CEO of Santa Barbara-based Solid Oak Software, Brian Milburn, reacted with skepticism and frustration to the joint announcement, on 1/14, by the social networking site MySpace and the attorneys general of 49 states, that MySpace would lead development of industrywide safety standards to protect minors. Milburn, developer of CyberSitter filtering technology, said MySpace had shown zero interest in his company’s new device allowing parents to electronically inform web sites such as MySpace of their children’s age. Participation costs websites nothing but “maybe an hour to program it on their end,” Milburn said. Though not a silver bullet, said Milburn, such information would allow site managers to block children too young to legally access their content, or direct children to appropriate spots on their site. The device can also be used in emailing, to warn adults seeking partners for sexual activity, cyber or otherwise, of the correspondent’s age.

A MySpace spokesperson, Jamie Schumacher, said the company does “everything in our power” to keep children under 14 off the site, using algorithms to red-flag use of such terms as elementary or middle school. She added that a content review team monitors every single video loaded onto the site to make certain it conforms to the terms of use. Schumacher did not comment on the CyberSitter technology but said that as far as she knows there is no way to verify age except by using social security numbers, which would be problematic. However, she said , “tech experts, industry experts, educators–anyone with expertise–are all going to sit at same table and try to figure out how [safeguards] can be put in place.”

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