Newsletter - August 2010


Stop Child Predators
Advisory Board

Mark Lunsford
Chairman

Joanna Acocella
Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Meryl Chertoff
Legislative relations professional, attorney and community volunteer

Viet Dinh
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

Brian Jones
Senior Counsel at Dow Lohnes

Roderick R. Paige, Ed.D.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education
(2001-2005)

Executive Team

Cary Katz
Chairman

Stacie Rumenap
President

John Falb
Treasurer & Member of the Board

Amy Thienel
Communications Director

Table of Contents

President's Message
As summer is in full swing, Stop Child Predators has "heated up" our response on issues ranging from cyberbullying to concerns over Internet privacy and residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders.
> Read More

SCP President Speaks at Online Safety Forum
Stop Child Predators President Stacie Rumenap spoke to participants at last month's annual Internet Governance Forum - USA (IGF-USA) in Washington, DC, on legislative trends in cyberbullying legislation across the United States, a topic that has drawn the attention of lawmakers in the U.S. and internationally. The IGF-USA will provide a report of the DC-based event to the global IGF which will be held in Lithuania this September.
> Read More

SCP president opines in The DailyCaller that while the Internet brings new innovations it also brings drawbacks
Last month, Mountain View, CA - based Google, Inc got a lot of attention when it was exposed that their Street View software was collecting unauthorized data from wireless networks. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process by which Google collects images of streets and houses for their Street View program, they have surveillance-equipped vehicles and drive around neighborhoods cataloging geospatial data.
> Read More

Georgia to Lessen Sex Offender Laws
In 2006, Georgia passed one of the nation's most comprehensive and strict sex offender laws in the country. The original law called for lengthy, mandatory prison sentences, electronic monitoring and residency restrictions, among other provisions, for convicted sex offenders.
> Read More

In The News
More stories making headlines.
> Read More




PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

As summer is in full swing, Stop Child Predators has "heated up" our response on issues ranging from cyberbullying to concerns over Internet privacy and residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders.

In this issue, we talk about legislative trends in combating cyberbullying. We also discuss our efforts in protecting children from predators who may utilize new technologies like Street View to locate unsuspecting victims. Finally, be sure to read about one state's legal and legislative battles to weaken their sex offender laws.

Don't forget to check out Stop Child Predators on Facebook and Twitter to find the most up-to-date content in your state.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter as much as we enjoy sharing the content with you. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org.

Together, we are confident that we will STOP CHILD PREDATORS.

Sincerely,


Stacie Rumenap

SCP President Speaks at Online Safety Forum

Stop Child Predators President Stacie Rumenap spoke to participants at last month's annual Internet Governance Forum - USA (IGF-USA) in Washington, DC, on legislative trends in cyberbullying legislation across the United States, a topic that has drawn the attention of lawmakers in the U.S. and internationally. The IGF-USA will provide a report of the DC-based event to the global IGF which will be held in Lithuania this September.

The panel and respondents in the "Best Practices Forum: Considerations on Youth Online Safety in an Always-Switched-On World" session agreed that education is vital when promoting youth online safety and paramount to teens avoiding online pitfalls like cyberbullying.

Panelists included Rumenap, Braden Cox of NetChoice Coalition, Jennifer Hanley of the Family Online Institute and Michael McKeehan, the executive director of Internet and technology policy at Verizon.

There to respond were Jane Coffin of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Morgan Little, a research associate with the Imagining the Internet Center, Bessie Pang, the executive director of the Society for the Policing of Cyberspace, and Adam Prom, an intern for the law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.

Mediating was Danny Weitzner, the associate administrator of the Office of Policy Analysis and Development of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

With much discussion on youth activities and safety on the Internet, the new report, "Youth Safety on a Living Internet," was provided to the U.S. Congress in early June, and its findings were discussed during the IGF-USA panel. This report discussed risks associated with youth experience on the Internet, the status of industry voluntary efforts to promote online safety, practices related to retention and the development of approaches and technologies to protect children from inappropriate content online. Much of the dialogue reflects topics examined by the Online Safety and Technology Working Group.

Cox and McKeehan were part of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, and Cox said the findings led to the conclusion that while issues such as child predators and "sexting" were minor problems, the main worry was cyberbullying by peers.

In order to combat the bullying, Cox said four recommendations came from the findings:

  • Avoid scare tactics. Instead, promote social norms and good etiquette on the Internet.
  • Promote digital citizenship, e-literacy and computer security in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education.
  • Focus online safety programs on risk prevention, including intervention with high-risk youth.
  • Create a digital literacy core on Internet safety.

Many lawmakers have tried to crack down on cyberbullying, Rumenap said. Forty-four states now have some sort of law about it. But she said most of the laws are ineffective.

Rumenap said the majority of the cyberbullying consists of teenage girls being teenage girls - gossiping and saying mean things to one another. "Criminalizing a 14-year-old for saying something mean probably isn't the best result," Rumenap said. She also pointed out, however, that when bullying turns into intimidation or harassment, the criminal justice system may need to take over.

The best method for cutting down on cyberbullying, the group affirmed, is education.

While a lot of this education can start at home, it should be present everywhere in kids' lives, especially when they are relating with their friends, Rumenap said. "It's a conversation," she said. "It's a conversation at home. It's a conversation at school. It's a conversation in after-school programs. And it needs to be a conversation with their peers. It needs to become a social norm."

The IGF-USA is a national forum in which experts come together to discuss hot topics regarding Internet governance, child safety, cybersecurity and other Internet-safety related issues.



SCP president opines in The DailyCaller that while the Internet brings new innovations it also brings drawbacks

Last month, Mountain View, CA - based Google, Inc got a lot of attention when it was exposed that their Street View software was collecting unauthorized data from wireless networks. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process by which Google collects images of streets and houses for their Street View program, they have surveillance-equipped vehicles and drive around neighborhoods cataloging geospatial data.

Today Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumethal, on behalf of the Executive Committee for the Multistate Working Group (a 37-state coalition), sent a letter to the senior counsel at Google regarding their unauthorized data collection practices that have been revealed as part of their Street View software.



Georgia to Lessen Sex Offender Laws

In 2006, Georgia passed one of the nation's most comprehensive and strict sex offender laws in the country. The original law called for lengthy, mandatory prison sentences, electronic monitoring and residency restrictions, among other provisions, for convicted sex offenders.

Although the law was applauded by many, including Stop Child Predators, the state was forced to back down on a number of provisions or face having the entire law thrown out by a federal judge who ruled that the law was vague and overbroad.

For example, Stop Child Predators pointed out one problem with the law back in 2007, which included restricting sex offenders from living near bus stops. The problem with that restriction, is that bus stops, particularly in rural parts of the state, change frequently; meaning that a sex offender may be in compliance one day but be in violation the next.

Fast-forward to this July, and the state has unfortunately thrown out most of the residency restrictions originally put in place. Under the new modifications, 70 percent of registered sex offenders in Georgia are free to live wherever they want, even next door to a playground or school.

Governor Sonny Perdue signed the changes into law in May, allowing the 13,000 or so registered sex offenders who committed their offense before June 4, 2003, to live wherever they choose. The date was picked because that is when the state's first sex offender overhaul took effect. Those restrictions were then strengthened three years later.

The tough restrictions still apply to about 5,000 sex offenders who committed their offenses after 2003, although those restrictions vary. For instance, sex offenders who committed their crimes between June 4, 2003, and June 30, 2006, can live within 1,000 feet of churches and swimming pools, but those who committed their crimes after July 1, 2006, cannot.

The reworked law also allows for some low risk offenders to be removed from the sex offender registry after the completion of their sentences, at a judge's discretion.

Iowa also relaxed their state's residency restrictions for sex offenders, a move that-rightly so-has many child advocates concerned.

Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is worried that relaxing the sex offender laws could have dangerous results. "Lessening those kinds of restrictions is dangerous - it could lead to more crime, more offenders," he commented on the recent changes. "We know that sex offenders who prey upon children do well in prison because there aren't temptations there. These guys get into the community, they begin to fantasize as they encounter kids in the community, and they lead to new offenses."

Many states are moving in the opposite direction. At least five states in 2009 tightened residency restrictions for sex offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California and several other states are considering changes this year.



In The News




For more information concerning the initiatives in your state, or if you would like Stop Child Predators' assistance in drafting, testifying for, or supporting legislation in your state, please visit our website at http://www.stopchildpredators.org and/or call us at (202) 234-0090.