Brussels, 10 February 2009
[Graphic in PDF & Word format]
17 leading web firms have signed for the first time a European agreement to improve the safety of under 18s who use social networking sites. These include Arto, Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Giovani.it, Google/YouTube, Hyves, Microsoft Europe, Myspace, Nasza-klaza.pl, Netlog, One.lt, Skyrock, StudiVZ, Sulake/Habbo Hotel, Yahoo!Europe, and Zap.lu. Social networking sites are an emerging social and economic phenomenon, attracting 41.7 million regular users in Europe and changing the way we interact with each other on the Web. The use of social networks has grown over the past year by 35% in Europe and is expected to more than double to 107.4 million users by 2012. To make sure that social networks continue to grow, young users need to feel safe when expanding their networks or sharing any personal information. The agreement signed today in Luxembourg at the Safer Internet Day organised by the European Commission will empower teenagers to deal with potential risks they may face online, like cyberbullying or revealing personal information.
"The Commission applauds this first European agreement on Social Networking. It is an important step forward towards making our children's clicks on social networking sites safer in Europe," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Social networking has enormous potential to flourish in Europe, to help boost our economy and make our society more interactive – as long as children and teenagers have the trust and the right tools to remain safe when making new 'friends' and sharing personal details online. I will closely monitor the implementation of today's agreement and the Commission will come back to this matter in a year's time."
Today, Europe's major social networking sites have come together for the first time at this year's Safer Internet Day to recognise their responsibility and identify potential risks on their sites for under 18s. These include cyberbullying (harassing children on internet sites or via mobile messages), grooming (when an adult befriends a child with the intention of committing sexual abuse) and risky behaviour like revealing personal information. They aim to limit these risks by:
Social networking sites will inform the Commission about their individual safety policies and how they will put these principles in place by April 2009.
Today's agreement is the result of discussions in the Social Networking Task Force set up by the European Commission in April 2008. This group brought together social networking sites, NGOs and researchers, and is a good example of industry self-regulation, an approach favoured by the Commission if effectively implemented.
Similar initiatives in this area include the Social Networking guidance from UK Home Office of April 2008, and separate agreements between Myspace, and Facebook with 49 State Attorneys General in the United Sates.
Safer Internet Day has been organised every year since 2004 and includes events in more than 50 countries in Europe and worldwide.
Safer Internet Day 2007, on the initiative of Commissioner Reding, resulted in an agreement on safer mobile use by young teenagers signed by all major mobile operators (IP/07/139).
A press pack containing the finalised agreement, a MEMO and an audiovisual clip on cyberbullying which will be broadcast on TV channels in the EU, Norway and Iceland as well as on the Internet can be found at:
For more information
List of signatories of the Safer Social Networking Principles
Arto, Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Giovani.it, Google/YouTube, Hyves,
Microsoft Europe, Myspace, Nasza-klaza.pl, Netlog, One.lt, Skyrock,
StudiVZ, Sulake/Habbo Hotel, Yahoo!Europe, and Zap.lu.
Safer Internet Day around Europe and worldwide
Today's signing ceremony in Luxembourg is a key event, amongst the many others taking place worldwide to mark "Safer Internet Day", and which include:
The European internet safety network INSAFE organised a online competition. 6000 participants took part and the 6 winners have been awarded their prize today in Luxembourg.
For the full calendar of events see http://www.saferinternet.org.