At the National Association of Attorneys General summer meeting here in Atlanta today, our Internet safety executive committee reported on recent efforts to detect and remove sex predators from social networking sites.
While much of the recent multistate focus has been on MySpace.com, the fact is that predators troll all of the social networking sites, looking for children to target. The FBI has estimated that on any given day, around 50,000 sex offenders are on the Internet in chat rooms, social sites and other cyber venues where young people congregate. Every week across the country, law enforcement stings and investigations result in the arrest of adult men who have arranged to meet with young potential victims.
MySpace.com says they have removed the pages of thousands of registered sex offenders who created their profiles using their real names. No one knows how many other offenders are on MySpace.com and similar sites using assumed names. The states are focused on persuading MySpace.com to adopt parental approval requirements and develop an age verification system. Similar demands are likely for other social networking sites.
Age verification technology is not available yet, and poses significant challenges.
In the meantime, while state attorneys general and other law enforcement agencies keep up the pressure on sex offenders and Web sites alike, the most important power to protect kids from predators continues to reside where it always has – with their parents and other responsible adults.