(Feb. 18, 2009) According to the European Commission's Directorate for Information Society and Media, social networking sites are a new social and economic phenomenon, attracting 41.7 million users across Europe who interact regularly with each other. Recent surveys indicate that children are the most active users. Approximately 60% of children and teenagers take part in online chat rooms almost daily. In April 2008, the European Commission, as part of its Safer Internet Plus Program, established a Social Networking Task Force, composed of 18 major social networks, child welfare organizations, and researchers, to examine the drafting of guidelines on the use of social networking sites by children.
On February 10, 2009, 17 leading web companies signed a European agreement designed to improve the safety of those under 18 years of age who use the social networking sites. The signatories, including Arto, Bebo, Facebook, Google, Microsoft Europe, MySpace, and Yahoo/Europe, are required to submit a declaration to the Commission regarding their individual safety policies and their means of implementation. The submission deadline is April 2009. Moreover, companies must disclose the non-confidential part of their safety policy.
The EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, stated: “[t]he 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.” (Press Release, IP/09/232, European Commission, Social Networking: Commission Brokers Agreement Among Major Web Companies (Feb. 10, 2009), available at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=4672.)