Jun 102010
 
 June 10, 2010  Featured News, Online

If Tagged.com thought that its troubles with NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo were in the past,  they apparently thought wrong.   Cuomo issued a press release today that he is planning to sue the social networking site — this time, for failing to protect children from being exposed to graphic images of child pornography:

…  a three-month undercover investigation revealed significant lapses in Tagged’s response to user reports of graphic images of children being sexually abused, inappropriate sexual communications between adults and minors, and content that advocates pedophilia.

The following are examples of graphic content that currently remains online despite specific complaints to Tagged made through the Attorney General’s undercover user accounts:

  • A user profile with a slideshow of children, some of whom appear to be younger than five years of age, in sexually explicit poses, exposing their genitals, and engaged in sex acts with other children. Tagged was informed of this content on April 17, 2010.
  • A user profile with photos of an adult performing oral sex on a girl who appears to be younger than 10 years old. Tagged was informed of this content on May 27, 2010.
  • An extremely graphic image of a girl who appears to be younger than 10 years old involving bestiality. Tagged was also informed of this content on May 27, 2010.

“Despite the safety claims listed on its very own Web site, Tagged.com repeatedly looks the other way when sexually explicit material is sent to its underage users,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “Child safety online is something than can never be ignored. This type of activity on the Internet poses a threat to children everywhere and parents must be aware of the dangerous security lapses at Tagged.com.”

After receiving a consumer complaint that Tagged was non-responsive to user alerts about graphic images of children being sexually abused, sexual solicitation of minors by adults, and pedophilia, Cuomo’s investigators created undercover Tagged.com accounts and made over 100 reports about 80 users regarding inappropriate sexual content and contact. The undercover accounts were then used to report this content and contact to Tagged using the mechanisms described on the company’s Web site. Despite these alerts, the vast majority of the reported users still have active Tagged accounts and most of the reported content remains on the Web site. In sum, of 80 users that were reported to Tagged by undercover investigators for various misdeeds, 51 users still have active accounts.

Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation revealed, among other violations, that:

  • Graphic images of children being sexually abused and obscene content are readily accessible on Tagged.com. Investigators found 29 user profiles on Tagged that included graphic images of children being sexually abused. These children were nude, in various states of undress, and often in sexual positions. Some user profiles had slideshows of naked and exposed children. Out of the 29 user profiles that were reported to Tagged by undercover investigators, 18 still have the reported content online.
  • Adults routinely engage in inappropriate and sexual communications with minors on Tagged.com. Investigators found 10 adult users who sent inappropriate sexual communications directly to underage users. In one instance, an account registered to a 10-year-old received a message with a desired sexual fantasy from a 59-year-old user and received a picture of a man exposing his genitals from a 49-year-old user. Further, the profile of the 10-year-old should not even exist since the Web site claims that users must be at least 13-years-old. Of the 10 users that were reported to Tagged by undercover investigators, 5 of those adults’ profiles remain active.
  • Underage sex-themed groups exist on Tagged.com. In user groups with names like “Younger Women/Older Men,” adults often express their interest in engaging in sexual acts with underage members. Investigators found 23 adult users who used groups to befriend and engage in sexually graphic dialogues with underage members. Of the 23 users that were reported to Tagged by undercover investigators, 13 continue to have active profiles.
  • Admitted sexual offenders may have active profiles on Tagged.com. Investigators reported to Tagged an unidentified user – using the screen name “criminal sex offender” – who admitted to being a convicted sexual predator. His user profile, which does not list a location for the user, remains online. Investigators were also informed of another possible convicted sexual offender on Tagged; the Attorney General’s office is coordinating with the proper criminal law enforcement authorities to pursue this matter.

As outlined in the five-day letter of intent to sue, Tagged’s failure to respond promptly to complaints of sexual exploitation of children on its Web site may facilitate the ability of sexual predators to target child victims. The Attorney General will sue Tagged if the company does not appropriately address these dangerous lapses in their own safety controls within five days.

Laura Ahern, the Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, said, “Tagged’s blatant disregard for our children’s safety is completely unacceptable. Social networking sites that allow predators to exploit and potentially access our most vulnerable must be held accountable. Attorney General Cuomo is a crusader for our children and I applaud his continued commitment to fighting sex abuse in New York State.”

[…]

This matter is being handled by Acting Bureau Chief of the Internet Bureau Karen Geduldig, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Maria Vullo.

The Attorney General’s five-day letter is available at: www.ag.ny.gov/media_center/2010/june/Tagged_5_Day_Letter_6_10_10.pdf.

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