Monday, October 1, 2007

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The social networking Web site Facebook has been warned that it could face a consumer fraud charge for failing to live up to claims that youngsters there are safer from sexual predators than on most sites and that it promptly responds to concerns, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said yesterday.

“We expect an immediate correction eliminating the dangers exposed by our investigation,” said spokesman Jeffrey Lerner.

Mr. Cuomo announced last week that he had subpoenaed Facebook after he said the company did not respond to “many” complaints by investigators who were solicited for sex while posing as 12- to 14-year-olds on the site. Officials from Mr. Cuomo’s office discussed the issue with Facebook by phone and fax Friday after they said Facebook took three days to answer calls and e-mails from state investigators.

An official in Mr. Cuomo”s office said he and others are scheduled to meet with Facebook representatives this week and anticipate changes will follow immediately.

“We said, ‘You have got to make accurate representations on your Web site,’ ” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because court filings haven’t yet been made. “What we told them is, ‘Correct the language describing the site and stop marketing yourself as this pristine Web site. … Parents have a misimpression. You can’t mislead people.’ ”

Mr. Lerner said Facebook’s contention of being safer than most sites was accurate when it started out as a closed site 3½ years ago. But it’s now much larger, and the safeguards and, apparently, the response times for complaints aren’t what they once were, he said.

There was no immediate response to e-mail and phone messages left for a Facebook representative. But a week ago, the company said it was concerned about Mr. Cuomo’s claim that sexual predators could use the site to meet with children.

“We strive to uphold our high standards for privacy on Facebook and are constantly working on processes and technologies that will further improve safety and user control on the site,” Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker said.

Mr. Lerner said Facebook has promised to cooperate.

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