"Bill to increase parental control on Internet"

Bill to increase parental control on Internet

By ANDREA JONES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/26/08

Georgia could take the lead soon on some of the strictest legislation in the nation aimed at Internet predators.

This week, a bill is expected to reach the floor of the state Senate that would force sex offenders to submit their e-mail addresses to authorities and require Internet service providers to offer parents the ability to block certain Web sites.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon), also would require schools to offer an annual course on online safety to students in grades three and higher.

“This is the first comprehensive legislation of its kind in the country,” Staton said.
It is the second bill Staton has introduced aimed at tightening parental controls and curbing access to cyberspace for sexual predators.

Last session, he proposed legislation that would make it illegal for social networking Web sites Myspace and Facebook to allow minors to create or update online profiles without parental permission. That bill did not make it to the floor and industry officials said it would be nearly impossible to enforce.

The new bill is a good compromise, Staton said.

Georgia is not the only state taking aim at social networking sites after a spate of high-profile sexual attacks by those who met their prey online.

“With 50 state legislatures, the sites are sort of facing an onslaught,” Staton said. “We have been working with various representatives over the last months to create a bill that was more comprehensive.”

Last year, Myspace began offering free parental notification software, the latest step in a series of efforts to try to protect young users from online predators. That software enables parents to know the name, age and location their children are using on the Web site but prevents them from reading their children’s e-mail or see their profile page.

In October, Facebook officials reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in which they agreed to respond and begin addressing complaints about nudity or pornography or unwelcome contact within 24 hours of receiving them. The site also agreed to tell the complainant within 72 hours what steps it had taken.

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