Texas AG: MySpace safety plan is smoke and mirrors

Only state attorney general not to sign on with social network's proposed online kid protection measures writes open letter to the site's CEO.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

The Lone Star State is the sole holdout in MySpace.com's comprehensive partnership with the rest of the country's attorneys general, and now Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has come out and explained why.

"We believe that social-networking sites, including MySpace.com, do not adequately protect young users," Abbott wrote Monday in an open letter directed to MySpace co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe. "As a result, Texas is unable to join the 'joint statement' that MySpace.com and other state attorneys general issued this week."

The reason, he said, is that he does not believe any social-networking site can be safe for minors until significant improvements in technology are achieved.

Texas maverick: Greg Abbott, the only state attorney general not to sign onto MySpace's new safety measures. Texas State Attorney General's Office

"In our view, the remedial measures delineated in the joint statement constitute a starting point rather than a point of conclusion. That is, the protective steps memorialized in the joint statement improve online safety and security but still fail to adequately protect child users," Abbott continued, adding that he thinks the wording of the joint statement is too vague. "We do not believe that MySpace.com--or any social-networking site--can adequately protect minors until an age verification system is effectively developed and implemented."

Age verification technology, as Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal stressed during a press conference Monday announcing the coalition, is a point of contention, even for those law enforcement authorities that have opted to work with MySpace. The attorneys general believe that such technology is either feasible at present or will be in the very near future; representatives from MySpace, including chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam, have stated that more research and development is necessary.

But that hasn't stopped the attorneys general from every state except Texas, in addition to the District of Columbia, from agreeing to work with the News Corp.-owned MySpace. Abbott's office, at least for the time being, is the only dissenter.

"We are concerned that our signing the joint statement would be misperceived as an endorsement of the inadequate safety measures contained therein," Abbott's letter to DeWolfe continued.

"Although we believe that MySpace.com, along with other state attorneys general, is working to protect social-network users, we cannot endorse any initiative that fails to implement a reliable age verification system. Doing so would give Texas parents and their children a false sense of security."