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
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2009 @ 4:22pm

    Re: an opposing view

    As a detective who works undercover internet cases and sexual assault cases, and who works daily with victims of internet child exploitation, my biggest issue with this study was that no one who actually works in this field was used on the panel.

    As someone who makes their living off people's fears about this, you're upset that the panel wasn't composed of like minded people with vested interests fanning the flames. No surprise.

    Of the 565,000 convicted sex offenders who are out of jail, 125,000 are non-compliant (we don't know where they are) - these are the ones that were caught and convicted. Rapists and child molesters don't rehabilitate and are in a high recidivism category.

    The truth is, many of those people were of convicted of something like peeing in an alley behind a bar one night when they were drunk and now they're "sex offenders" for the rest of their lives. And sex offenders have a lower recidivism rate than people convicted of other crimes on average, not higher. But let's not let the truth get in the way here, that won't get you any promotions will it? I mean, even the Supreme Court has ruled that it's OK for police to lie, so why not?

    Now if you want to start point out examples, I think I could find a few example of police using firearms to kill innocent people. So how about we take your gun away before you kill some innocent child? Lady, I think that badge and gun have gone to your head.

    Go read some sex offender treatment files on some of the perps convicted using the internet and then come talk to me.

    I just did.

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