In follow-up to our earlier blog post regarding recent pressure on social networking sites from law enforcement, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that his office had entered into a settlement with Facebook. The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s investigation of Facebook’s failure to fulfill public claims it made about protecting minors, which the Attorney General believed were deceptive acts and practices and false advertising in violation of New York consumer protection laws. Facebook did not admit to any wrongdoing.
The settlement is particularly noteworthy for its resulting “new model” to protect children. As set forth in the settlement agreement and settlement terms, Facebook will:
- Disclose the newly implemented safety procedures on its website as specified by the agreement and ensure that all other public statements made by Facebook about safety are consistent with the specified language.
- Accept complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact confidentially via hyperlinks placed throughout Facebook’s website as well as via an independent email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Respond to and begin addressing complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact within 24 hours.
- Report to the complainant the steps it has taken to address the complaint within 72 hours where the complaint has been submitted via an independent email to email@example.com.
- Allow Facebook’s complaint review process to be examined by an Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE), a third party approved by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, to report on Facebook’s compliance with the agreement.
- Provide a prominent and easily accessible hyperlink to allow a Facebook user or their parent/guardian to give feedback to the Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE) about Facebook’s performance in responding to complaints.
- Submit to the Office reports prepared by the Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISSE) evaluating Facebook’s performance in responding to complaints. The Examiner will report bi-annually and may recommend additional safety measures concerning complaint handling, as appropriate.
Both Attorney General Cuomo and Facebook are touting the agreement as setting new industry standards to protect children. Notably, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, co-chair of the national social networking task force of all 50 state Attorneys General, issued a press release stating the settlement terms were not strong enough. He is urging social networking sites to increase the use of filtering technology and monitors to screen content, identity and age verification for anyone 18 and older, parental consent for anyone under 18, the hiding of children’s profiles from adults, certain restrictions on advertising to children, and other measures. In light of the settlement, the likely continued interest by law enforcement, and the potential dangers to children, social networking sites should consider assessing their security practices and policies.