Investigation claims Facebook a target of child predators

ByJoseph Spector Gannett News Service

ALBANY -- State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced an investigation into the popular online social networking website Facebook after undercover investigators posing as children were allegedly solicited by sexual predators.

Cuomo said that during the past month, undercover agents posing as underage users were solicited by adult sexual predators, and the users could easily access pornographic images. Cuomo said investigators contacted Facebook posing as upset parents, but their complaints were often ignored. In some cases, Facebook did respond by taking down inappropriate material.

The investigation comes as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that they are leading their own nationwide investigation into Facebook.

Cuomo said he has issued subpoenas to the company, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif. The subpoenas seek copies of complaints received by Facebook about the solicitation of underage users and inappropriate content on the site.

"My office is concerned that Facebook's promise of a safe website is not consistent with its performance in policing its site and responding to complaints," Cuomo said in a statement. "Parents have a right to know what their children will encounter on a website that is aggressively marketed as safe."

The investigations are the latest scrutiny for Facebook and similar sites, such as MySpace, that have been criticized for not regulating the interactions between adults and minors.

"We are committed to working closely with all the state attorneys general to maintain a trusted environment for all Facebook users and to demonstrate the efficacy of these efforts," said Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker.

Founded in 2004, Facebook started as a social network for teenagers and college students. In 2006, it opened to everyone. The company says it has more than 42 million active users.

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