updated 2/28/2008 1:37:55 PM ET 2008-02-28T18:37:55

Leading Internet scholars at Harvard Law School will head a task force exploring the safety of users at MySpace and other popular online hangouts amid growing fears that youngsters have become targets of sexual predators.

The creation of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force is part of an agreement that MySpace, a unit of News Corp., reached with all attorneys general except Texas' in January.

Initial participants include leading Internet companies such as Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Time Warner Inc.'s AOL and MySpace rival Facebook, along with Internet access providers and nonprofit groups.

The group will have a broad mandate to explore technical ways to keep children safe — not only from sexual predators but also from online bullies and adult content. Procedures for verifying users' ages are expected to be among the task force's discussion.

Although MySpace was in charge of creating the group, naming its members and choosing Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society to run it, the task force will be independent of MySpace, according to John Palfrey, Berkman's executive director.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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