NJ AG’s ‘Report Abuse’ button

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram wants all social-networking sites to have the "Report Abuse" button at the bottom of every page, NJ.com reports. Her plan, she told a Gannett New Jersey reporter, "will give users a standard form to report concerns such as suspected child predators or violent or sexually explicit material. Anyone who files a complaint will receive a confirmation number and contact information they can use to follow up on their report." New Jersey-based myYearbook.com and six niche sites run by CommunityConnect have adopted General Milgram's program so far. At first glance, it makes a lot of sense, but there are some key drawbacks: this is the program of a single US state, and social-networking sites are highly international; a number of sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Hi5, already have such systems in place; and, practically speaking, it's not a hot button that makes sites responsive, it's the customer-service system behind it that does. A better idea would be industry-wide, uniform best practices for abuse reporting and response to which all such sites agree to comply. But let's hear from a social site itself about this. Gannett reported that MySpace hadn't returned its call about this, so I contacted MySpace as to whether this program would make sense for its service and social sites in general. Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's (and Fox Interactive's) chief security officer responded that….

* MySpace already has a report abuse button "on the bottom of every profile and in key areas of our site."
* MySpace's system is more granular ("users can choose the type of problem they are reporting).
* "These reports are then handled by a trained customer-care group – each company is unique with a unique user base and set of issues."
* "We are an international site that must handle reports from citizens around the world – a New Jersey-centric button fails to recognize the reality of the Internet" (it's in more than a dozen countries; see also "MySpace international").
* "A singular process doesn't work – guiding principles in this area would be more successful rather than prescriptive requirements."

Mr. Nigam added that MySpace wasn't contacted by the New Jersey attorney general's office about the program – the company first heard about it in the news media. In related news, General Milgram's office this week subpoenaed Facebook, "requesting that the company turn over information as to whether registered sex offenders have profiles on the site," CNET reports. MySpace has responded to similar subpoenas in recent months (see "Social-networking dangers in perspective").


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