State Attorneys General Trash Internet Safety Study, But Still Can't Provide Data To Counter It

from the maybe-it's-not-such-a-big-threat-after-all dept

Last month, a wide-ranging panel of experts did a big study and found out that the risks of online predators stalking kids on social networks was totally overhyped -- something that we'd seen in previous studies, though none as wide-ranging and comprehensive. These results shocked and upset the group of 49 state attorneys general who have been pushing hard to force social networks to implement a variety of mechanisms to "protect" against this threat that really isn't that big. It's not surprising that these AGs want to push this. It makes it look like they're doing something to "protect the children," at little cost to themselves. The public imagination, helped along by politicians and the press, have been falsely led to believe that these sites are crawling with child predators tricking children, but the truth is that such cases are extremely rare. That's not to play down the seriousness of the few cases where it happens, but it's hardly a major epidemic.

Still, the state AGs were none too pleased with the report's results, and some of the more vocal social network haters have been trashing it for using out-dated data. Of course, these AGs haven't actually provided the up-to-date data that contradicts the report's findings. So, one well-respected online safety researcher, Nancy Willard, went out and found some recent data to look at. Adam Thierer summarizes her findings -- but the quick version is that the recent data does, in fact, support the study's original conclusion: there just isn't that much predatorial behavior happening on social networks. In fact, the report found that general chat rooms were much more risky than social networks. The key point:
The incidents of online sexual predation are rare. Far more children and teens are being sexually abused by family members and acquaintances. It is imperative that we remain focused on the issue of child sexual abuse -- regardless of how the abusive relationship is initiated.
Focusing on social networks as being a problem is taking away resources from where the real threats are... all in an effort for some AGs to get some easy headlines.
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Filed Under: attorneys general, internet safety, stats

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  1. identicon
    JW Morrison, 8 Feb 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Making political hay

    As a father who has had daughters molested I understand the devastation that is left behind after such action. My experience is not from internet interactions. However, I also know that if you continually ignore the constitution and pass laws that supposedly 'protect' children you will ultimately hurt everyone, especially children.

    As we continue to make it impossible for a sex offender to change himself and return to being a productive member of society we only endanger children more. For those of you who think that sex offenders cannot change then I would have you look into the statistical proof where treated sex offenders have an extremely low rate of re offense.

    Drunk drivers do more damage to children for life than do sex offenders yet there are no DUI registries. Why not? Because DUI convictions hit closer to home than sex offender convictions. If society continues with this punishment kick soon they will ensure that those who offend leave no witnesses behind. How many children will suffer the ultimate price? Or when will we make every crime a registrable offense?

    Where is common sense?

    These politicians always uses people, and in this case, children, to further their careers rather than actually do something that will keep us safe. Their policies will one day increase prison population to 2% then 3% of the population. Most people would rather just shoot a sex offender instead of locking him up. Most people accused of sex offenses are automatically convicted by society before their trial, and there are many that are accused that are not guilty.

    To protect children parents must insert themselves into the lives of their children because, ultimately, their interaction and knowledge of their children will do more to protect than anything politicians will ever do.

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