We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Research that is “Outdated and Inadequate?”

I find it interesting that various State Attorneys General, after the report was issued, complain -on various grounds- that the report is inaccurate. Reality is that these same Attorneys General initially complained about registered sex offenders having MySpace accounts (MySpace finding, first 29,000 then 7,000 accounts and MySpace deleting them: Note RSOs all truthfully established those accounts legally - even today the MySpace TOA does not prohibit RSOs from having MySpace accounts) and the Attorneys General reviewed every single one of those accounts and finding no more than certain RSOs having violated parole by using the Internet, and not finding a single one of the RSOs enticing or soliciting any minor on MySpace. Now, after the fact, one Attorney General comes up with a series of Internet crimes resulting from chat rooms which was not their initial complaint. The latest claims of the Attorneys General are more than questionable because the Task Force did quote recent research not old and outdated research as claimed. eAdvocate

January 2009:

An Analysis of the Pennsylvania Child Predator Unit Arrests in Response to Attorney General Criticism of the Berkman Task Force Report

On January 14, 2008, the Berkman Internet Safety Technical Task Force issued its report, Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies. The Task Force, a group of 29 leading Internet businesses, non-profit organizations, academics, and technology companies engaged in a year-long investigation of tools and technologies to create a safer environment on the Internet for youth. The Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. This Task Force was formed as a result of pressure by some of the state attorneys generals upon the social networking sites to implement age verification technologies to separate adults from minors, ostensibly to protect minors from sexual predators.

The Task Force report has been criticized by some of the state’s Attorneys General:

• In a press release, Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal stated: “The report unfortunately downplays the threat of predators -- in relying on research that is outdated or inadequate.”1

• In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, North Carolina Attorney General Cooper stated: “We did not ask the task force to look at the bullying issues. We asked them to look at ways for us to fight child predators. I am concerned with some of the findings. I think it relied on outdated and inadequate research …”2

• In a press release about the Task Force report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General Corbett stated:3 "I believe this report is incredibly misleading ... "The threat is real," Corbett said. "In the last four years, my office has arrested 183 predators, all of whom have used the Internet for the purpose of contacting minors to engage in sexual activity." "Outdated statistics and academic projections are of little comfort to the minors who have been sexually victimized by online predators," Corbett said. "The mere fact that tens of thousands of registered sex offenders have been removed from MySpace should be sufficient to cause any parent concern."

Although the Task Force’s Research Advisory Board reviewed and summarized the latest online-safety research available, including research that was published in 2008, much of the data on online sexual predation in the published articles predates the rise in popularity of social networking sites. However, it should be noted that the findings of various studies by different researchers have been highly consistent throughout the last decade.

The research demonstrates that sexual predation cases typically involve teens who willingly meet with adult men knowing they will engage in sexual activities. Deception about age or sexual intention is rare. Sexual abuse by family members and acquaintances remains a far more significant concern. The young people who are at the greatest risk online, in all areas of risk, are those who are at greater risk in the real world. These young people have significant psychosocial concerns, intentionally engage in risk taking behavior, and have disrupted relations with parents or other care givers. Young people face greater risks from their peers in the form of sexual solicitation, sexual harassment and cyberbullying. The majority of young people are generally making safe and responsible choices online, effectively responding to the negative incidents that do occur, and are not distressed by these incidents.

This nation’s Attorneys General are the ones who have access to the most up-to-date arrest data on online sexual predation - data that is critical to understanding the extent of the problem, as well as other site and risk factors. They
did not provide any data to the Task Force that they created.

For the remainder of this report: by Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use: Website: http://csrui.org Email: nwillard@csriu.org

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