MySpace CSO on keeping users safe

This month’s CSO Magazine features an interview with MySpace security czar Hemanshu Nigam. The article discusses the wealth of available information about the site’s 150 million members for both good and bad purposes, and ways MySpace is working to clean up and protect its community and brand. Parent company News Corp. wants to create a safe community attractive to new users and advertisers, yet MySpace members are so active and so varied it’s not always an easy task. Nigam formerly worked for heavy-handed intellectual property enforcers Microsoft and the MPAA.

Interesting excerpts

No senior citizens

MySpace members can no longer browse the site for members over 68 years-old. This change complicates the process of finding a member with an age such as 69 or 99, two frequently bogus values. Specialty social networks such as Eons, focused on people 50 and older, start to make sense as large sites such as MySpace cut off the head and the tail of their age range to reduce costs and provide a better user experience for their core user base.

MySpace employees noticed that some young members were listing their age as 69 (shorthand for a sexual position). Older members were then running searches for, say, 69-year-olds under four feet tall, in hopes of finding young members interested in sex. Now, members can no longer browse for people over the age of 68.

120-person support staff

The 120-person MySpace support operations team scans supposedly scans submitted information for illegal and bogus submission. School alumni information is likely more accurate than the person’s submitted age, and MySpace can flag the outliers. I doubt MySpace reviews every uploaded photo and video, since their staff would need to review 122 pieces of content a minute over their entire 8-hour shift just to cover today’s level of upload activity.

The 24/7 support operations team—currently about 40 percent of MySpace’s 300-person staff—manually reviews the 7 million images and videos that are posted every day. They also run searches to try to find underage users who post information, like the name of the elementary school they attend, that indicates they are not at least 14 years old. The company says it currently shuts down about 30,000 profiles of underage users each week.