Who’s Watching Out for Our Kids?

Not much could shock me – or so I thought. I certainly was shocked as a student at the FBI Citizens Academy when in one of the optional exercises some of us watched over the shoulder of FBI agents in a computer center working on an Internet sting. I saw with my own eyes, a father in a chat room offer up his pre-teen son for sex with an adult male (who was actually an FBI agent in a chat room).

Repulsion is an understatement. I have as much disdain and disgust for that father as I do for the men of the cloth who preyed on children instead of praying for them. I was so angry that if I could have crawled through the wires to reach that father I would have probably been charged with a violent felony.       

Well, I was shocked again recently, and relived that rage momentarily when I read the New York Times January 14, 2009 headline, “Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown.” The lead in the story by Brad Stone was “The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.” The story continued that the task force created “to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.”

Not dangerous?! Not a significant problem? Without the Internet, how else could have that father easily offered his son for sale?

The news story went on to say that a report of a group called Internet Safety Technical Task Force issues a “278-page report [which] was the result of a year of meetings between dozens of academics, experts in childhood safety and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Facebook.”

Hmmm, exactly where did you think representatives of ISPs, social-networks and other businesses who make profit from Internet filth and carnage would come out on this issue?

Maybe we should save a bundle of cash and time and skip Senate investigations by following this model and asking the banks if they were responsible for the sub-prime mortgage. Of course we will need “dozens of academics” to sprinkle “academic holy water” on the report. We all know how right THEY are.

The task force was created by 49 state attorneys general. One of those attorneys general, Greenwich resident, Richard Blumenthal, criticized the report. He opened his official statement on the report by saying “This report is a step forward in the fight to better protect children from predators and inappropriate content on social networking sites.”

But in the next breath he states, “The report unfortunately downplays the threat of predators — in relying on research that is outdated or inadequate — and it fails to provide specific plans to implement technology in improving social networking safety.

“Law enforcement officials know the reality: children are solicited every day on line. All too often, they fall prey. MySpace alone has identified and removed more than 50,000 profiles of convicted, registered sex offenders. For every one of them, there may be countless using false names and ages.

“Technology companies and social networking sites must do more — and do it now. Blaming the victim is appalling and outrageous.”

Bravo, A.G. Blumenthal! At least someone in authority is watching out for our children. It is certainly not the U.S. Supreme Court who refused to overturn a lower court ruling banning implementation of the Child Online Protection Act.