Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How the faceless and amoral world of cyberspace has created a deeply disturbing... generation SEX

View the article here


By Olivia Lichtenstein

Remember that Hilaire Belloc cautionary tale - Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes? I used to love it as a child when telling lies was one of the naughtiest things you could do: Matilda ended up getting burned to death.

These days, however, everything has changed and it’s the truths that children tell that make one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.

A couple of years ago, my daughter Francesca, then aged 13, told me about a party she had been to one Saturday night.

In the course of the evening, she came upon one of her friends, also aged 13, performing oral sex on a boy in the garden. The boy was standing and videoing the event on his mobile phone.

My daughter, in whom the feisty gene has always found strong expression, pulled her friend off the boy, knocked the phone out of his hand and slapped him round the face.

I apologise for shocking you, but then there are a number of things shocking about this event: the casual nature in which such an intimate act is performed in public, the young age of the participants and last, but by no means least, the fact that it is being filmed.

This not only signals the boy’s disassociation from the physical experience, it also indicates his intention to replay the event and, no doubt, to share his triumph with his friends as one might brandish a trophy above one’s head for all to see.

Reality TV has a lot to answer for

Nor was this the only such event on this particular evening. I am no prude, but Francesca painted a picture of Bacchanalia that certainly made me gasp.

That week at school, when conducting a post mortem of their weekend as teenagers do (and always have done), the girls at her then school (she’s since moved), a private girls’ school in London, exclaimed: ‘Hurrah, now we’re more slutty than Slutney’, the affectionate nickname of another school.

Call me old-fashioned, but when I was a gal, sluttishness was not a condition one aspired to.

That year, they were all dressing in Hooters T-shirts (the uniform of the well-endowed waitresses of a U.S. restaurant chain whose slogan ‘delightfully tacky yet unrefined’ sums up its approach) and buttock-skimming shorts.

They looked, as girls so often do, far older than their 13 years and not unlike the Playboy Bunnies who incensed a generation of feminists. (Interestingly, clothing depicting the distinctive Playboy bunny is highly popular now among teenage girls.)

When one considers our society, it’s no surprise that our children have lost all sense of modesty.

Not only do social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo encourage teens to share information about themselves; but when they are not taking their clothes off, their role models are spilling their guts about their ‘private’ lives all over the pages of every national newspaper, magazine and on television.

We have an immoderate interest in the private lives of perfect strangers. Pop stars such as Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears expose the car crash that is their life for all to see.

Jordan, who won fame by revealing her breasts, has a documentary series where she and her husband, Peter Andre, discuss their sex life (or lack of it) in intimate detail.

The Osbournes revealed all for our entertainment in their television series. Was this extraordinary exposure responsible in part for the subsequent drug and alcohol abuse of the two of their children who participated? One can’t help feeling it might have been. Their third child, Amy, wisely chose to stay out of the limelight.

Whatever its exponents may say, reality television has a lot to answer for. I have been a documentary film-maker for more than two decades and am well aware of the power of the medium.

Today’s teenagers are starring in the reality show of their own lives and doing all they can to make it as dramatic as possible.

Where before mistakes we made when young - excessive drinking, acts of promiscuity - were quietly forgotten, now they are recorded and broadcast on the internet for all to see.

From happy slapping to amateur sex videos (Paris Hilton rose to fame when a shamelessly intimate video of her and her boyfriend found its way on to the internet, a reality TV show followed, and the rest, as they say, is history).

Do these girls even know what feminism is?

The sexualisation of our young is ubiquitous: boys caught cheating on their girlfriends on mobile phones, ritual humiliation and worse by YouTube (In February 2008, a gang of London teenagers aged 14-16 drugged and raped a woman in front of her children and then posted the film of the attack, videoed on a mobile phone, on YouTube), television programmes like Sex And The City with man-eating Samantha as the living embodiment of casual libidinous sex, all provide the back projection to our children’s lives.

Instant fame is all. In today’s celebrity culture, no one cares how you made your name, as long as you’ve made it; there’s no distinction between fame and notoriety.

Do you really want things that you’ve done when drunk to be plastered all over the internet?

These images are like puppies; they’re not just for Christmas, they’re for life.

Would the 13-year-old girl administering oral sex in a London garden have done so if she’d fully considered the possible repercussions of the video the boy was taking of her?

Once broadcast on the internet the images would have become available not merely to the boy’s friends, but to the whole world; to paedophiles and to prospective employers in the future.

In her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women And The Rise Of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy writes about the American experience, where many a young girl’s dream seems to be the desire to dance around a pole or cheer while others do.

She says that feminist terms such as liberation and empowerment, that used to describe women’s fight for equality, have been perverted.

Now the freedom to be sexually provocative or promiscuous is not enough - now it can mean the freedom to be an exhibitionist.

During the same summer as the party my daughter had told me about, she casually mentioned at a lunch gathering of family and friends how another of her friends allowed boys to ‘touch them up’.

There was a sharp, shocked intake of breath around the table; the casual use of language and the public mention of such an act astonished us.

Although many of us might have engaged in such activities at a similar age, none of us could have imagined discussing it in front of our parents let alone in front of our parents’ friends.

So how much are the parents to blame?

It is precisely this erosion of the boundaries of privacy and the absence of taboo that is so shocking about today’s teenagers. Modern technology allows children access to images and information we, as children, could scarcely have imagined.

You want to see a naked girl? Click on to the internet. You want to hear exactly what your friend got up to the night before? Log on to Facebook. Not only will their boasts tell you that they are recovering from the excesses of the night before, there’ll be the pictures to prove it.

In today’s world of fast information and access to all areas, too many - particularly the young - are having to up the stakes to chase their particular dragon and get the high they crave.

Sometimes, they’re so busy creating drama and tension in the movie of their own lives that they’ve forgotten to be human beings.

A video I was told about shows how far things have gone: a dying woman lay inert on a street while a man urinated on her, saying as he did so: ‘This is a YouTube moment.’

When I was young, secretly looking up the word penis in the dictionary and sniggering was how we got our thrills. This is small beer for today’s children: the girls especially, who, where once they might have struck a pose in front of mirrors in the privacy of their own bedrooms, now exhibit themselves scantily clad in hookers’ poses in photo albums on social networking sites.

There’s something about the one step removal into cyber space that allows people to behave even more outrageously than they might in person. Now, even this boundary is becoming blurred.

Perhaps it’s the freedom or lack of boundaries they’ve learned from virtual reality that give them permission to behave with such frightening lack of inhibition in person. That and the demon drink, for today’s teenage girls drink in a way we rarely did.

So how much are the parents to blame? Those of us who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies will do almost anything to appear ‘cool’ to our children; we certainly don’t wish to come across as some sort of Mary Whitehouse scandalised by today’s youth.

Nor do we wish to appear as joyless, men-hating feminists, although many of us remember that we fought hard for the right to do as men have always done.

One can’t help but wonder what happened to feminism and its lessons. On the one hand, girls drink like men; on the other they dress in a manner that invites sexual objectification. Do these young girls even know what feminism is?

‘The problem is that teenagers have rejected the values of the previous era and to reject the values of the Sixties or Seventies, which was very laissez faire, you have to go very far,’ says Dr Pat Spungin, psychologist and founder of parenting website

The bar has unquestionably been raised. Where will it end? In bizarre fetishism or S&M as teens strive to outdo each other?

The lessons learned are confusing ones; girls feel they have the right to get drunk and sleep around, but certain attitudes never change.

According to a sample group of 17-year-olds I spoke to, there is an enormous double standard between the sexes. Boys treat sex as being a sign of ‘laddishness’ and masculinity, they say; promiscuous behaviour on their part is an achievement.

Girls, on the other hand, are caught between a rock and a hard place.

‘Boys demand that they go further before they are ready; if they do, they’ll quickly be labelled as sluts, and gain a reputation as an easy target, so that drunk boys will seek them expecting that they’ll be easy to get off with,’ says one.

‘If they don’t, they’ll be labelled as frigid and become instantaneously unattractive; most boys won’t bother investing time and energy flirting with a girl if they think there is little prospect of pulling.’

‘Girls I know often get drunk and allow themselves to be touched up at bus stops or up against walls,’ says my daughter, Francesca.

Many of her classmates, she says, have been sleeping with their boyfriends since the age of 14 or 15.

Peer pressure has always been a persistent factor of teenage life. The stakes are higher now and teenagers, not surprisingly, have become even more competitive and paranoid. They may often find themselves in situations they are not equipped to deal with.

The internet personae that children create turn them into avatars - an online persona - in their own lives and diminish their empathy for each other. It becomes hard to tell what is real and what isn’t.

Facebook has an application called the Honesty Box, which invites you to send and receive anonymous messages to discover what people really think of you.

The application’s blurb declares triumphantly that messages cannot be removed: ‘Once you send a message, it’s forever.’ Thus has bullying moved from the playground into cyber space?

The implications of all this behaviour are far reaching. A survey about violence in teenage relationships released last month by Women’s Aid and Bliss magazine found that nearly a quarter of 14-year-old girls who responded had been pressured into engaging in sexual activity with somebody they’ve dated.

According to the survey, boys see girls as sexual commodities and one in four 16-year-olds had been hit or hurt in some other way.

Many felt it was OK to hit a girl if she’d been unfaithful. It also found that more than half of 14 and 15-year-olds have been humiliated in front of others by someone they were dating.

‘There used to be a stricter and more regulated approach to bringing up children,’ says Dr Pat Spungin.

‘Parents should take back some of the control they’ve ceded. We don’t say “no” enough, so vulnerable girls don’t have enough experience of saying “no” themselves.’

This is not to say that we should be condemning teenagers for being sexual and proposing that they take chastity vows and attend purity balls as is fashionable in parts of the U.S.

However, we do need to consider what is appropriate behaviour and to help our teens ensure that ill-considered or drunken acts which are sometimes a part of growing up won’t come back and hurt them in the future.

Some, of course, have always been sexually precocious

There have, of course, always been girls and boys who are sexually precocious.

When I was in the fifth form (Year 11) at my girls’ grammar school, I remember a classmate going to Majorca and returning to boast that she’d slept with six boys in a week. Luckily, neither she, nor they, had the pictures to prove it. These days they might well have had.

‘The girls who are most vulnerable and have the most desire to be liked are the ones who are tempted to cross these boundaries,’ says Dr Pat Spungin.

The event cited at the beginning of this article is an extreme one and by no means common to all teens’ experience. It did, however, occur.

Others will have similar stories, and it is symptomatic of a worrying tendency among our teens to live their lives in an inappropriately public arena where they reveal far more of themselves, both literally and metaphorically, than is wise.

Barack Obama recently commented on the fashion among young men for wearing their trousers low on their hips: ‘Brothers should pull up their pants. You’re walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing. (Some people might not want to see your underwear - I’m one of them.)’

Few would wish a return to the hypocritical constraints of life before the sexual revolution; however, the trouble with the pendulum is that it has a habit of swinging too far the other way.

Perhaps it’s time for everyone to pull up their pants and show each other a little more respect; and, since we’re supposed to be the adults, it has to start with us, with how we behave, how we draw boundaries and what we put in our newspapers and magazines and on our television screens.

CA - Antonoivich's Sex Offender Ordinance Passes

View the article here


By Carol Rock

Ordinance makes it tougher for sex offenders to get close to potential victims.

Sex offenders in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County will find it harder to have access to children after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that strengthens restrictions on where they can reside or congregate.

The new ordinance, which was proposed by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, prohibits offenders from loitering within 300 feet of libraries, public and private schools (K-12), publicly owned and operated parks, businesses with children’s playgrounds, school bus stops and child care centers in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

It also limits the number of sex offenders who can live in single- and multi-family dwellings and at hotels or motels and establishes consequences for property owners and managers who knowingly violate the prohibitions.

According to Antonovich’s office, the ordinance will only apply to convicted sex offenders whose offenses are committed after the ordinance goes into effect. Similar ordinances have already passed in Long Beach, Palmdale, Pomona, West Covina and El Monte. Currently, Santa Clarita follows the restrictions outlined in Megan's Law and would have to enact a more restrictive ordinance on its own.

“The additional restrictions will strengthen those mandated by the State of California . Reducing the potential dangers associated with multiple registered sex offenders living near families and places where children frequently gather is our priority,” said Antonovich.

There are approximately 1,438 registered sex offenders in the unincorporated areas of the County, 397 of these registered sex offenders are on parole.

A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety

Dear Parent:

Our children are our Nation's most valuable asset. They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better Nation. Our children are also the most vulnerable members of society. Protecting our children against the fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must be a national priority.

Unfortunately the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.

I hope that this pamphlet helps you to begin to understand the complexities of on-line child exploitation. For further information, please contact your local FBI office or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

Louis J. Freeh, Former Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation


While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.

There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.

Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use their on-line access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.

This guide was prepared from actual investigations involving child victims, as well as investigations where law enforcement officers posed as children. Further information on protecting your child on-line may be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the Information Highway pamphlets.

What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.

Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.

Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.

You find pornography on your child's computer.

Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.

Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.Drawing - Telephone

While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's phone number.

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.

As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.

Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.

Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator On-line?

  • Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer-sex offenders.
  • Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.
  • Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else's Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
  • Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone pager to complete this retrieval.
  • This is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  1. Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;
  2. Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age;
  3. Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.

What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
  • Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
  • Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an on-line predator.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Instruct your children:
    • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
    • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
    • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
    • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
    • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
    • that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.

Frequently Asked Questions:

My child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website, what should I do?

Generally, advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. Such advertising can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent of the problem.

Is any service safer than the others?

Sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this pamphlet.

Should I just forbid my child from going on-line?

There are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.

Helpful Definitions:

Internet - An immense, global network that connects computers via telephone lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses of electronic information. With only a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider, people from all over the world can communicate and share information with little more than a few keystrokes.

Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) - Electronic networks of computers that are connected by a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by their "dial-up" accessibility. BBS users link their individual computers to the central BBS computer by a modem which allows them to post messages, read messages left by others, trade information, or hold direct conversations. Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and limited to those users who have access privileges granted by the systems operator.

Commercial On-line Service (COS) - Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their service for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet as part of their total service package.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric and Netcom. These services offer direct, full access to the Internet at a flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers for their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites. Not all ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental and nonprofit organizations also provide Internet access to their members.

Public Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the COS and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay Chat. A number of customers can be in the public chat rooms at any given time, which are monitored for illegal activity and even appropriate language by systems operators (SYSOP). Some public chat rooms are monitored more frequently than others, depending on the COS and the type of chat room. Violators can be reported to the administrators of the system (at America On-line they are referred to as terms of service [TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat rooms usually cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment, sports, game rooms, children only, etc.

Electronic Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides for the transmission of messages and files between computers over a communications network similar to mailing a letter via the postal service. E-mail is stored on a server, where it will remain until the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity can be maintained by the sender by predetermining what the receiver will see as the "from" address. Another way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous remailer," which is a service that allows the user to send an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's own header, stripping off the originator's name completely.

Chat - Real-time text conversation between users in a chat room with no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation is accessible by all individuals in the chat room while the conversation is taking place.

Instant Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two users in a chat room.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public and/or private chat rooms on COS.

Usenet (Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter and is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image files (GIFs). Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the postings, take copies of posted items, or post responses. Each newsgroup can hold thousands of postings. Currently, there are over 29,000 public newsgroups and that number is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or private. There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided with the newsgroup's address.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Cyber Division
Innocent Images National Initiative
11700 Beltsville Drive
Calverton, MD 20705

Contact your local FBI office for further information

CT - Raising Some Questions About Smoking Gun Sex Offender Profiles On MySpace

View the TechDirt article here

And Richard Blumenthal, is taking the advice and statistics, from Steve Rambam, who apparently has a criminal history himself.


from the anyone-check-if-it's-actually-real? dept

Last week, there was a story on about how Connecticut's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, who's been on quite a crusade to "protect the children" from social networks, was demanding MySpace hand over info on sex offenders registered on the site. This seemed a bit odd, because MySpace and other social networks had already agreed to weed out the accounts of various sex offenders. Yet, as the article noted, an investigator (who was involved in a separate legal battle with MySpace) happened to find profiles of registered sex offenders still on MySpace including (gasp!) some who even used their own mug shots as their photos. Yet, as Sean Garrett points out, the whole thing seems pretty questionable. Why would a sex offender trolling the site for kids use their own mugshot -- and equally creepy descriptions that are pretty clear tipoffs. The whole thing seems quite likely that someone found the sex offender page and set up a fake MySpace profile.

Of course, it's possible the page was actually put together by the sex offender in question, but it doesn't look like anyone actually bothered to confirm that it's real. Instead, it's being used as a political prop by politicians and reporters of the horrible type of people found on MySpace. As Jim Harper notes, will Richard Blumenthal be investigating the reincarnation of Elvis Presley on Facebook next?

No one's trying to downplay the serious issue of sexual predators, but study after study after study has shown that the issue has been blown way out of proportion by politicians and the press who seem to love creating moral panics so they can claim they're "protecting the children." It's as if they stop thinking and all skepticism goes out the window the second anyone claims that sexual predators might be on social networks -- despite the fact that studies have shown the best way to combat the rare cases when children are approached by such miscreants is better education. Children who are educated on the risks are quite good at avoiding such contact. Yet, that doesn't make for such great headlines and probably doesn't help Attorneys General when it comes to re-election time.

MI - Registered Sex Offender, obeying the law, dies, due to the residency restrictions passed by the government

View the article here



By The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- A man found dead on the streets Monday had tried in recent weeks to gain admittance to at least one of two Heartside missions, but was denied a bed because he is a registered sex offender.

Officials say its possible _____ might be alive today except for a state law prohibiting him from establishing a residence even for one night within 1,000 feet of a school, in this case, Catholic Central High, also located in the Heartside district.

"It's heartbreaking. I have a hard time even talking about it," said Marge Palmerlee, executive director at Degage Ministries.

Palmerlee said she had talked to at least two people who told her _____ had tried earlier this month to secure a bed at one or both missions.

Bill Merchut of Mel Trotter and Bill Shaffer of Guiding Light agreed that _____ may have tried to gain entrance, but that their missions risk fines and loss of license if they admit sex offenders. They do not track everyone who applies for a bed, only those who are admitted, so while they were sure _____ had not been admitted, they couldn't be sure if he had tried.

They both decried a system where there are no exceptions to the so-called Megan's Law, which sets boundaries and restrictions for those on the list.

"We have to follow the law, but ethically, it feels like were responsible," said Merchut.

Added Shaffer, "These men and women are clearly 'The Scarlet Letter' folks of our day. And where do they go? I have no answer."

_____, 52, served 11 years in prison for a 1991 conviction in Grand Traverse County for second-degree criminal sexual conduct, state records show. He was released in 2003 and was required to register as a sex offender.

UK - Town man’s life sentence for brutal murder of sex offender

View the article here


By Pete Bainbridge

A MACCLESFIELD dad of three has been jailed for life for brutally murdering his 60-year-old flatmate after learning he was a convicted paedophile.

Ex-butcher Lea Mason, 33, formerly of Turnock Street, will serve a minimum of 17 and a half years after launching a "violent and frenzied attack" on his victim.

Mason used knives to stab, and a frying pan to bludgeon, _____ – until they bent or broke – then stamped on his head, which left "huge gaping holes" and soaked the killer’s trainers in blood, a judge heard.

Mason and co-defendant Stephen Brian Kidd, 37, originally from Stoke, both pleaded guilty to murder at Preston Crown Court and were sentenced last Thursday (January 22).

Mason was a thug well-known to police in Macclesfield through a string of violent offences stretching back 15 years.

He admitted the murder after being captured by police in Blackpool.

ID - Legislature considers revising sex offender laws

View the article here


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Two bills designed to strengthen rules governing sex offenders will be considered by legislative committees.

House Bill 41 would require officials to update registries within five days after a sex offender has moved in an effort to keep old and new neighborhood records current.

House Bill 29 seeks to protect children 14 and younger from sex offenders. It would require a sex offender to obtain written permission from a child's parent if the offender is to accompany the child anywhere.

Both bills are scheduled to be heard Wednesday.

Utah has about 7,000 registered sex offenders in the state database and has an e-mail program where residents can sign up and receive alerts if an offender moves into their neighborhood.

SOhopeful of New York

Click the image to visit the site

IA - Constitution protects even sex offenders

View the article here


It is the consensus that pedophiles are worthy of contempt. That should not mean, however, that individuals convicted of sex crimes are not protected by the Constitution.

Thus, Iowans should see the release of 15 sex offenders from prison following a decision of the Iowa Supreme Court for what it is: evidence of this state's commitment to the rule of law.

Some may think the 15 offenders were released "early." In fact, they were released under the original terms of their sentences, if not later. The only reason none had been released before Monday is that the state extended their sentences after the fact. That, according to a ruling handed down by the Iowa Supreme Court last Friday, violates the U.S. and Iowa constitutions.
- Duh!  This is what many have been saying for years.  Something that changes a sentence "after the fact" is "ex post facto" and violates the constitutions!  Just read the document, and you will see.  It states:

Section. 9.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

It is reassuring to see the Iowa courts take a firm stand on this constitutional question. State and federal appeals courts have largely dismissed pleas that states' increasingly strict criminal penalties for sex offenders violate fundamental constitutional principles. The courts have upheld laws that arguably allow double jeopardy and banishment, which might not be so readily accepted for other classes of criminals.

Two Iowa district judges drew the line in three cases in Jones and Henry counties in which prison inmates argued their sentences had in effect been lengthened by an act of the Legislature after their convictions. Both judges ruled that amounted to an "ex post facto" (or after the fact) law, which both the Iowa and federal constitutions explicitly forbid. As explained in a decision by Chief Justice Marsha Ternus upholding those rulings, an ex post facto law "punishes as a crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done, which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime after its commission...."

In the Henry County case, _____ was convicted in 1997, at a time when state law dictated that prison inmates had one day cut from their sentences for every day of "good conduct" and five additional days per month cut for participating in approved programs such as drug or sex-offender treatment. Eight years later, the Legislature changed the law governing sentence reductions for good conduct, which in _____'s case, meant his sentence was lengthened by four months.

That, the Constitution says, the Legislature cannot do.

Although _____ is still not eligible for release until later this spring even under the original law, the Department of Corrections, in consultation with the Iowa Attorney General's Office, on its own initiative released 15 inmates Monday who were determined to be wrongly held in light of the court's ruling.

The department and attorney general deserve credit for taking that initiative, and they should cull the files of the prisons to determine how many more inmates deserve to have their original release dates reinstated as governed by state law at the time of their convictions.

The lesson in this sudden release of 15 inmates should not be obscured by the nature of their crimes: Constitutional rights belong to everyone, and Iowa's courts deserve credit for recognizing that.

SC - Police shocked by what they find on kid's phones

View the article here



Some Aiken teens may be playing with fire if they take part in a recent trend of sending explicit images over cell phones.

Several teens around the country have been charged with sex crimes after "sexting" - a newly coined term for the sending and receiving of explicit images and texts - and law enforcement officials want Aiken teens to heed the warnings before they find themselves in hot water.

"Across the board, every parent needs to be aware of what we are finding," said Aiken Public Safety Juvenile Division Capt. Maryann Burgess. "They take pictures of themselves and send them to each other without even thinking about it."

But law enforcement officers are putting a lot of thought into the matter.

"Sexting" is most often associated with teens taking nude photos of themselves and sending them out via cell phone. Both are winding up on the Internet and on cell phones throughout the area.

Burgess said lewd photos are popping up on nine out of every 10 phones investigators confiscate from teenagers during unrelated investigations. That's not to say nine out of 10 teens are taking photos, but by the time law enforcement is investigating a case, the vast majority of phones taken during an investigation have lewd photos on them, she explained.

According to a study conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and, more than one in five teen girls have sent nude or seminude images of themselves. Almost one in five boys has done the same.
- Again with the 1 in 5.  I wish they'd stop using this "out of thin air" number.  It does more harm than good, see here.  It's one of those numbers that sound good, but no facts behind it to back it up.  Same as the 50,000 online predators number.

Some of the pictures are lewd, and others are bordering on pornographic.

The law in South Carolina distinguishes between "erotic" and "pornographic" images, explained investigator Mark Patterson with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

"Most of the pictures are erotic; girls sending pictures of themselves to their boyfriends," he said.
- And if they are under the age of consent, then it's making and distributing child porn!

Pornographic images focus on genitalia.

"We see that, too, but mostly we are finding erotic images," he said.

In either case, the images are becoming more commonplace and sending them or even having them is a crime.

Investigators are trying to first educate teenagers about the consequences, saying they could charge the juveniles with anything from improper use of a telephone to possession and distribution of child pornography.

Lt. Troy Elwell, who has an extensive background in juvenile investigations, explained that the consequences of a child porn conviction are serious and lasting.

"It's nothing you want to have anything to do with," he said. "With child porn, each image is a different count."

Fifteen images means 15 charges. Each charge carries with it the possibility of three years in prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender.
- That is not always the truth, it depends on the state you are in.  So if someone had 200 images, that could potentially be 600 years in prison.

It's not just the legal repercussions that can destroy a child; there are psychological impacts, as well.

A high school student in Aiken County who sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend learned several other students had seen the pictures after they broke up. The teenager in the pictures was devastated.

"She asked her parents if she could go to a different school," Patterson said. "But once you hit that send button, you will never get it back."

School officials have rules in place that prevent teenagers from using their phones during school hours, but law enforcement officers are calling on parents to monitor their children's cell phones.

"Be nosy," Elwell said.

Ask questions and set up ground rules, Burgess added.

Investigators and school officials can look at the images on a cell phone, and parents have the right to do the same.

"If you are footing the bill and the child is under 17, they have no expectation of privacy," Elwell said.

A cell phone agreement requires a contract, and, in most cases, a parent is making the agreement.

"These phones belong to the parents," Burgess said.
- So why don't you tell parents to STOP buying their children phones with cameras and texting capability?  All they need is a standard phone, with nothing else.  Maybe MP3's or something, but that is all.  Like the man said, the parent is paying for it, so it's their responsibility.

Police said they are talking with area students about the foreseeable problems down the road. These photos can haunt them for years, police said.

"In the worst case scenario, the images can be posted on a child pornography site," Elwell said.
- Or, the child goes to prison for the rest of their life, basically ending their life.

Police are warning parents that teenagers elsewhere in the country have been charged with being in possession of pornographic images. Deputies in Aiken have not filed any charges against teenagers thus far, but Patterson said he has considered it in a handful of cases. And he knows there is a possibility a case will rise to that level.

NJ - Galloway Twp. sex-offender law to get hearing in top N.J. court

View the article here



GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the township's argument in favor of sex-offender residency restrictions struck down by prior court decisions, attorneys said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court has not set a date to open arguments on the case and a similar one out of Cherry Hill, in which residents _____ and _____ won their fight against local limits on where they, as moderate-risk sex offenders, could live.

Attorney Frank Corrado said Tuesday he expects the state Supreme Court to hear the arguments in the spring.

Corrado represents a Richard Stockton College student who is considered a low-risk sex offender. Identified in legal documents as "G.H.," Corrado's client is scheduled to graduate in 2010, four years after he successfully challenged Galloway's ban on convicted sex offenders living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, playground or day-care center.

In July 2008, a state Appellate Court upheld that finding.

Those decisions prompted other New Jersey towns to repeal similar local ordinances or stop enforcing them until the court proceedings have concluded.

Past opinions have stated that state law takes precedence over local ordinances. New Jersey Megan's Law charges supervision officers and corrections officials with determining the residency of a convicted sex offender based on his or her rehabilitation needs and tier, a three-category ranking system based on likelihood that an individual will re-offend. It does not specify residential boundaries.

State Sen. Chris Connors (Contact), R-Ocean, Burlington, Atlantic, is sponsoring a bill that would prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within 500 feet of a school, playground or day-care center in New Jersey.

"If the state (Legislature) passed a statewide statute, it would supercede any local ordinances and this particular case would be moot unless state says something to the affect that the municipality can have tighter restrictions than the state sets," Corrado said.

The court filed paperwork Jan. 16 stating its intent to hear the case, according to court documents provided by township solicitor Michael Blee.

Blee has been handling the case with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice in Washington, D.C. The not-for-profit law firm has covered the legal costs.

The American Center for Law and Justice is a pseudonym for Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism Inc., according to a statement from the firm released Tuesday.