MySpace and NCMEC Partner to Provide Added Distribution of Amber Alerts

LOS ANGELES— MySpace.com, the leading social networking and lifestyle portal, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), announced a partnership to distribute localized online AMBER Alerts via MySpace.

In addition to its traditional distribution methods, the AMBER Alert program will now benefit from the mass distribution of the MySpace network and provide rapid, viral support to law enforcement in bringing home an abducted child. The AMBER Alerts on MySpace went live Jan. 23. In addition, MySpace announced a new set of safety features to increase online safety and privacy for its community, including E-mail verification and an “over/ under” privacy tool for all users.

”When a child is abducted, the AMBER Alert program is a tool that allows everyone to join in the search. To date 314 children have been recovered as a result of this program,” said Ernie Allen, NCMEC president and CEO. “MySpace AMBER Alerts will allow the online community to be part of a nationwide effort to bring even more children home. We are grateful that MySpace has agreed to help us distribute these important alerts.”

The AMBER Alerts on MySpace will be updated constantly. As soon as NCMEC is notified that an AMBER Alert has been issued by law enforcement, MySpace will relay that AMBER Alert information to all users within the zip codes of where the AMBER Alert was issued. The AMBER Alert notification will appear in a small text box at the top of a profile, giving users the option to receive additional information such as the photo and description of the abducted child, suspect and vehicle. Users who have information on the abducted child or the suspect’s whereabouts should immediately call 9-1-1.

“AMBER Alerts on MySpace give users nationwide the opportunity to help in the recovery of an abducted child in their area—just by logging on,” said Hemanshu Nigam, Chief Security Officer, MySpace. “We applaud NCMEC and will continue working with industry leaders such as Ernie Allen and his team to implement creative programs that share the goal of protecting teens.”

The AMBER Alert program, named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas, is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Posting AMBER Alerts on MySpace uses the power of the connected community to provide rapid assistance to law enforcement in recovering an abducted child.

President Bush authorized the national AMBER Alert initiative as part of the PROTECT Act signed in 2003. The law formally established the federal government’s role in the AMBER Alert program, appointing the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the agency responsible for coordinating AMBER Alert programs on the national level. DOJ has officially partnered with NCMEC, authorizing them as the agent that coordinates and disseminates AMBER Alerts to secondary distributors such as MySpace.

“I applaud the efforts of NCMEC and MySpace to alert the public and increase awareness of AMBER Alerts,” said Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs and the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. “This partnership expands the AMBER Alert secondary distribution network, allowing even more people to serve as the extra eyes and ears of law enforcement as they work to bring abducted children home.”

This announcement highlights a number of new additions to MySpace’s arsenal of user protections including mandatory E-mail verification and an “over/ under” privacy tool. Mandatory E-mail verification requires that all MySpace users register with a valid email address and all users creating a profile on MySpace will be required to confirm their new membership via email. The “over/under” blocking tool expands on privacy features previously available only to younger users. The over/under blocking feature prevents users under 18 from being contacted by users over 18 and it also allows users over 18 to block users under 18 from contacting them.

Other recent privacy and security features include:

  • Privacy Alert: MySpace safety teams recognized that many users were misrepresenting their ages to avail themselves of privacy options exclusively given to younger users. In response, MySpace has made the full range of privacy options available to the entire community and has communicated the availability of expanded privacy options to such users. MySpace deletes an average of 25,000 profiles per week due to age misrepresentation.
  • Instant Messaging and Chat Safety Restrictions: Users can only receive instant messages from other users on their Friend list. Users under 18 years of age cannot access romance-specific chat rooms.
  • Safety Suggestion Alerts: All users under the age of 18-years old receive security warnings before they post content. MySpace encourages users of all ages to recognize the public nature of the Internet and reminds younger users to use common sense before posting content throughout the community.
  • Age Restrictions for Communication and Content: All younger users listed on MySpace—14- or 15-years old— are tagged to be un-searchable by age on any search engine or Internet portal. Additionally on MySpace, no user can Browse for users under 16, and adults can never add users under 16-years old as a friend unless they know the user’s last name or E-mail address. Lastly, users 19 years or older cannot search for high school students and younger users can only receive group invites from those individuals within their friend network.

Safety and Customer Care Response:

  • Law enforcement hotline, 24/7 both emergency and non-emergency
  • Streamlined abuse reporting to better differentiate between the type of abuse
  • CAT team development; MySpace has created a Content Assurance Team (CAT) to assume the roles of various users and view the site ‘through their eyes’
  • Parent Care, dedicated parent care email and downloadable guidebook
  • School Care Team, dedicated educator hotline and guidebook

Primary Safety Tools for Members:

  • All members can set profile to “private”
  • Users can pre-approve all comments before being posted
  • Users can block another user from contacting them
  • Age-specific blocking capabilities available to all users
  • Younger user birthdays only visible to friends
  • MySpace “profile details” limited to age-appropriate activities for younger users
  • Users can conceal their ‘online now’ status
  • Users can prevent forwarding of their images to other sites
  • 32,000 trained school moderators oversee forums
  • Users have the option to make their profile public for those in their age range

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NCMEC & MySpace.com press release

About MySpace.com: MySpace, a unit of Fox Interactive Media Inc., is the premier lifestyle portal for connecting with friends, discovering popular culture, and making a positive impact on the world. By integrating web profiles, video, mobile communications, instant messaging and more, MySpace has created a global connected community with a wide array of communication choices. As the world’s top-ranked web domain in terms of page views*, MySpace is the most widely-used and highly-regarded site of its kind. MySpace’s international network includes localized community sites in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, and Ireland.

*Among the top 2000 domains comScore Media Metrix, November 2006. For more information on c
omScore Networks, please go to www.comscore.com.

About the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC): NCMEC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. NCMEC’s congressionally mandated CyberTipline, a reporting mechanism for child sexual exploitation, has handled more than 419,400 leads. Since 1984, NCMEC has assisted law enforcement with more than 125,200 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of more than 107,600 children. For more information about NCMEC, call its toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit its Web site at www.missingkids.com.

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