Technology is available for verifying the ages of Web and app users.One of the providers is Aristotle International Inc, which offers a variety of methods, including having a parent vouch for a child and make a token payment with a credit card to establish the parent's identity.
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From a business perspective, however, there are powerful reasons not to be so restrictive, starting with teen expectations of more freedom of expression as they age.
If they don't find it on one site, they will somewhere else.
Another pillar in Facebook's strategy is to limit how those under 18 can interact on the site and to make it harder for adults to find them.
Minors don't show up in public searches, only friends of friends can send them Facebook messages, and only friends can chat with them.
Yet even though defensive techniques are now available and effective they can be expensive.
They can also alienate some of a site's target audience - especially teen users who expect more freedom of expression.'There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,' said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography.As a result, many threats are eliminated without human intervention and moderators at the company are notified later.Sites that operate with such software still should have one professional on safety patrol for every 2,000 users online at the same time, said Sacramento-based Metaverse Mod Squad, a moderating service.Users could be unnerved about the extent to which their conversations are reviewed, at least by computer programs.'We've never wanted to set up an environment where we have employees looking at private communications, so it's really important that we use technology that has a very low false-positive rate,' he said.In addition, Facebook doesn't probe deeply into what it thinks are pre-existing relationships.Filters and moderators are essential for a clean experience, said Claire Quinn, safety chief at a smaller site aimed at kids and young teens, Wee World.