Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Takes Action Against Internet Child Predators; Testifies At Congressional Hearing About Critical Online Safeguards

WASHINGTON – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a nationally recognized leader in the fight against online predators, testified at a congressional hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet in Washington today on federal legislation that would require publicly funded schools and libraries to limit access to commercial social networking sites like MySpace.com.

Attorney General Abbott also reiterated his call on MySpace.com and other social networking site operators to step up their efforts to protect young users of their sites from being subjected to sexually explicit images and unwanted solicitations.

Media Links
Attorney General Abbott's Testimony to the Subcommittee
H.R. 5319, The Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006
Greg Abbott
Attorney General Abbott's Testimony to the Subcommittee

Diminished video quality a result of Web stream

“The operators of social networking Web sites can no longer be allowed to turn a blind eye to the predators who lurk on the playground they created,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Site operators are part of the problem, and to be part of the solution they must do more than pay lip service to providing a safe environment for children. They must take affirmative, definitive action, such as verifying the age of their users, to ensure the protection of the millions of children and teenagers who use their networking sites and chat rooms.”

Noting the success his Cyber Crimes Unit has had in arresting over 80 sexual predators who were trolling Internet chat rooms for underage victims, Attorney General Abbott testified in support of H.R. 5319, introduced by Congressman Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-PA.

The federal legislation, known as the “Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006,” would also require the Federal Trade Commission to publish a list of commercial social networking Web sites and Internet chat rooms that are shown to allow sexual predators "easy access" to children.

Attorney General Abbott had issued a letter to social networking Web site executives in May calling on them to strengthen safeguards against pornography and sexually explicit solicitations after his Cyber Crimes Unit arrested three men in Texas who used MySpace.com and other Internet chat rooms to solicit minors for sex.

In his testimony today, Attorney General Abbott again called on site operators to implement more stringent age verification measures to protect younger users on the networking site. He pressed operators to upgrade their resources and utilize filtering software that would also provide parents with the opportunity to block access to the sites at their discretion.

“Social networking site operators have made several adjustments to their safety protocols in the last few months, but sexual predators have found ways to get around those limits,” added Attorney General Abbott. “Without meaningful safeguards in place, no child is safe from the unwanted advances of chat room predators.”

Attorney General Abbott appeared at the hearing at the invitation of House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-TX.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority of his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, launched by Attorney General Abbott in May 2003, targets online predators by assuming the identities of young teenagers in Internet chat rooms. Investigators have arrested 84 men who used teen chat rooms to arrange meetings with underage victims, with some predators driving hundreds of miles to meet children they met online. The office has also obtained convictions against 44 men on child pornography charges.

On May 18, the Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The grant will help the Unit expand its efforts to protect children and partner with law enforcement agencies across Texas to fight against online child exploitation.

In addition to the Cyber Crimes Unit, the Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, has arrested more than 270 such offenders.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott's efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit the Attorney General's Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.