New study on Internet predator arrests

Posted by: "Nancy Willard" nwillard@csriu.org nwillardcsriu

Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:39 pm (PST)

Hi all,

I have just released the following news release. I did an analysis of the
arrest data from the Pennsylvania AG's arrest data because of the response
of the AGs to the Berkman Task Force report. The analysis of the arrest data
fully supports the research reported in this report.

Wish me luck. <major sigh> I am standing up to the 50 state attorneys
general who want to force social networking sites to use age and identity
verification to prevent minors from communicating with adults - which would
allow for massive market and voter profiling of clearly identified
individuals.

New study of Pennsylvania Internet predator arrests shows young people face
greater risks in chatrooms than on social networking sites - and
significantly greater risks from family and acquaintance sex abusers.

EUGENE, Oregon/January 28, 2009. On January 14, 2008, the Berkman Internet
Safety Technical Task Force issued its report, Enhancing Child Safety and
Online Technologies. The Task Force was created in February 2008 as a result
of pressure by 49 state attorneys generals on the social network sites to
implement age verification technologies purportedly to protect minors from
sexual predators. The Task Force report has been criticized by some of the
state Attorneys General for minimizing the threat of predators on social
networking sites and for failure to endorse the effectiveness of the
verification technologies.

A new report issued by the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
looks at the extent of the predation threat in a state that has made
information about Internet-related predation arrests publicly available. The
analysis looks at a set of data derived from press releases on Pennsylvania
Attorney General Corbett's Web site about arrests of online sexual predators
made by his office's Child Predator Unit 2005 through the present.

Willard states, ³My intention in publishing this analysis is to demonstrate
that the data derived from attorney general arrest reports is consistent
with the findings of the Berkman Report. It is essential that we form an
effective working partnership between law enforcement, Internet safety
professionals, researchers, risk prevention experts, and industry to address
the very real challenges faced by ³at risk² young people online. We cannot
do so if the Attorneys General demonstrate disrespect for the research and
recommendations that have been presented to them by professionals in the
field of youth risk online.

The analysis of the Pennsylvania arrest data reveals:

Of 183 incidents arrests, only 8 involved actual teen victims. Only 5 of the
incidents had resulted in sexual contact. One of these cases involved
communications through MySpace.

The vast majority of the reported arrests were the result of sting
operations that occurred in chat rooms or through instant messaging. In only
a handful cases did the predator, who initiated the communications in a chat
room, look at the fake victim¹s MySpace profile.

Although it appears the Pennsylvania Attorney General¹s office has had
unprotected fake teen profiles on MySpace since November 2006, there have
been no arrests for predation stings initiated on MySpace.

The descriptions of these chats incidents bear out what the research
reviewed by the Berkman Research Advisory Board found. The predators were
always very open about their sexual interest and few were deceptive about
their age. They often sent the underground agent images of their private
parts and always discussed the sexual activities they would like to engage
in.

To put these findings in context, the Pennsylvania' s Coalition Against Rape
issued a release on April 9, 2008, showing that in fiscal year 06-07 the
Coalition¹s crisis centers had served 9,934 child victims of sexual abuse.

Willard states: ³It is essential that we develop prevention and intervention
strategies that are grounded in research insight, including arrest data, and
that incorporate effective risk prevention approaches to address the actual
risks that young people face online. The high quality research presented by
the Berkman Task Force should not be dismissed as outdated and inadequate
simply because it clearly demonstrates that the technology quick-fix
approach being demanded by some of this nation¹s state attorneys general
will be totally ineffective in protecting youth.

About Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use provides resources for
educators and risk prevention experts on issues of youth risk online. Nancy
Willard, M.S., J.D. is author of this analysis and director of the Center.
She is author of two books addressing Internet safety: Cyberbullying and
Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Aggression,
Threats, and Distress (Research Press) and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy
Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly
(Jossey-Bass) . She has worked in the field of youth risk online for over 14
years, with prior professional background working with at risk youth and
computer law. She did not serve on the Berkman Task Force, but contributed
information to the group. The report is available at http://csriu. org.
Press Contact: 541-556-1145.
--
Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
http://csriu. org
http://cyberbully. org
http://cyber- safe-kids. com
http://csriu. wordpress. com
nwillard@csriu. org

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)