Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries, said: 'The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible.'Facebook is among the many companies that are embracing a combination of new technologies and human monitoring to thwart sex predators.Such efforts generally start with automated screening for inappropriate language and exchanges of personal information, and extend to using the records of convicted pedophiles' online chats to teach the software what to seek out.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.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.
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.
Under a 1998 law known as COPPA, for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, sites directed at those 12 and under must have verified parental consent before collecting data on children.
Some sites go much further: Disney's Club Penguin offers a choice of viewing either filtered chat that avoids blacklisted words or chats that contain only words that the company has pre-approved.
'There are companies out there that are more concerned about profitability.'Also in June, a teen-oriented virtual world called Habbo Hotel, which boasts hundreds of millions of registered users, temporarily blocked all chatting after UK television reported that two sex predators had found victims on the site and that a journalist posing as an 11-year-old girl was bombarded with explicit remarks and requests that she disrobe on webcam.
Former employees said site owner Sulake of Finland laid off many in-house workers earlier this year, leaving it unable to moderate 70 million lines of daily chat adequately.