Social Networking Sites commit to new EC Agreement

The European Commission has completed a deal with internet companies to help protect children using social networking sites. The agreement was signed at the Safer Internet Day, which was organised by the European Commission as a means of self-regulation by the major online players.

The agreement – which covers sites including Facebook, Bebo, Google, Microsoft, yahoo! MySpace and YouTube – will see a number of safeguards put in place to help protect young people while they are using the web.

Seventeen websites and networks across Europe have agreed to the proposals, and as part of the deal they have promised that there will be significant progress towards implementing the rules by April 2009.

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and the media, said that the agreement was an “important step” in the process of making social networking safer for children.

“Social networking has enormous potential to flourish in Europe, to help boost our economy and make society more interactive – as long as children and teenagers have the trust and the right tools to remain safe when making new ‘friends’ and sharing personal details online”.

The social networks have stated they will provide an easy to use and accessible ‘report abuse’ button, make sure that full online profiles and contact lists of website users who are registered as under 18s are set to ‘private’ by default, users under 18 will not be searchable, develop systems to deal with Cyberbullying and prevent under-age users from using their services.

The agreement will evaluate the success of the plans to stop cyberbullying, grooming and risky behaviour like revealing personal information, in a years time.

These proposals are similar to the social networking guidance  which was issued by the Home Office in Britain in 2008. That agreement – which included a self-regulated code of conduct for social networks operating in the UK – included requirements for visual privacy prompts, and required sites to attempts to remove younger users.

The commission has also launched a new video and  campaign against cyberbullying.

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