News Corp. Launches Online Safety Ads

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CBS/AP
The parent company of MySpace.com and Fox is devoting millions of dollars in television air time and online ad space for a public service campaign on Internet safety.

Central to News Corp.'s campaign, announced Thursday, is a spot featuring Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Jack Bauer on the Fox action drama "24."

"On TV Jack Bauer has 24 hours to make the world safe. In real life it only takes a few minutes to do the same for our kids," Sutherland says. "To protect them you don't need the latest state-of-the-art technology. You just need a few simple tips: Don't let them run into trouble on the Internet, use common sense."

The 20-second ad then directs viewers to CommonSense.com, a site run by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that monitors and reviews media and entertainment for parents. There, parents may download a guidebook and a tip card on Internet safety, including a recommendation that they become involved with what their kids do online.

The campaign comes as parents, schools and law-enforcement officials increasingly warn about the dangers of sexual predators at social-networking sites, which provide messaging and other tools to encourage users to expand their circles of friends.

MySpace has gotten the brunt of the attention given its position as the industry leader, with some 92 million registered users, about 20 percent of them minors. It garnered 4.46 percent of all U.S. Internet visits for the first week in July 2006, for the first time earning the No. 1 spot on the hit list for its homepage.

In June, the mother of a Texas teenager who claims she was sexually assaulted by another MySpace user sued the social-networking site and News Corp., seeking $30 million in damages. The lawsuit claims MySpace is negligent in protecting teen users despite numerous warnings of the dangers.

Attorneys general from at least four states also have issued calls for MySpace to do more to protect teens.

"It's important to be very careful about any actual meeting you arrange with people you've virtually met online," CBS News technology analyst Larry Magid says. "Be sure the meeting is in a public place and, ideally, take a friend or two along and let people know where you're going."

Over the past several months, MySpace has responded to the concerns by hiring a safety chief and changing its privacy policies to try to make it more difficult for adults to contact younger teens.

MySpace and other News Corp. sites also had earlier run ads aimed at educating users about the dangers.

The new campaign is directed at educating parents and teens on what they can do.

"We can build the best technology features in the world and the best safety features, but unless we raise education and awareness around the use of those, it doesn't do anything," said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer.

James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, said the campaign will be especially important for parents and educators because "a lot of older folks have no idea about what their kids are doing on the Internet."

The spot is to run on several Fox cable stations, including FX, Fox Movie Channel and the National Geographic channel. Online video and banner ads will appear on MySpace.com, FoxSports.com, IGN.com, AmericanIdol.com and other Fox Interactive Media sites.

Nigam could not say how much News Corp. was committing, other than to say it was "millions and millions of dollars worth of time and space."