COPA Commission: Educate police, public on online dangers to kids
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON Local and federal governments need to spend
significantly more money to train police and prosecutors to hunt down Internet
predators in cyberspace and shut down Web sites containing child pornography, a
congressional commission recommends.
In a report to be sent to Congress next week, the commission
created to protect children from explicit content online also called
for law enforcement agencies to create a master list of Internet sites that
contain child pornography.
Rather than asking for strict new laws, the panel urges local and
federal officials to implement a sweeping education campaign both
online and through libraries, community centers and schools to identify
the possible online dangers to children, encourage parents to monitor
children's Internet activity and promote new technologies that screen out
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the
Commission on Child Online
Protection's recommendations, which will be sent to Capitol Hill on Oct.
In the report, the commission cautioned that governments need to "pay
competitive salaries and benefits" to retain Web-savvy cops in an era where
technical skills command high dollars.
"As law enforcement is training these officers in (Internet) issues,
and getting them up to a point where they are effective and (have a good)
understanding of the issues, they often just stay for a few years and move on
to the private sector," said Michael E. Horowitz, the commission's
representative from the Department of Justice. "The difference in salaries is
so large on the tech side that we are losing people."
The panel of industry leaders, activists and government officials
shied away from placing more responsibility on Internet providers to block
online porn. Instead, it called for the adult industry to clearly label its
content and work harder to keep kids away from its sites by using technology
that verifies the identity and age of users.
The group also called for the adult industry to stop using two of its
common practices free, teaser pages that contain explicit photos and
"mouse trapping," a technology that causes new windows to pop up containing
porn when the user tries to leave a Web site. Congress should consider making
mouse trapping illegal, the report urges.
The commission was created by the Child Online Protection Act, a
sweeping law that required commercial Web sites to collect a credit card number
or some other access code as proof of age before allowing Internet users to
view online material "harmful to minors."
The law was immediately challenged as unconstitutional and has been
blocked in federal courts.
Alan Davidson, a staff lawyer at the Center for Democracy and
Technology who worked on the commission report, said the panel's
recommendations show a shift in philosophy from the original law.
"The COPA Commission itself has provided really good reasons why COPA
is not the right answer," Davidson said. "Top-down only gets you so far. At the
end of the day, you have to have something on the family side if you're really
going to make a difference."
The commission also is calling for law enforcement agencies to develop
a list of Web sites, Internet newsgroups and other Internet destinations that
contain child pornography to help law enforcement target violators, Davidson
The commission compiled lists indicating that about 100,000 Web sites
show simulated or real child pornography.
"This is something that could be pulled together fairly easily from
the federal agencies," Horowitz said.
While the FBI has a very successful campaign against child
pornography, the commission's call for the investigation and prosecution of
obscenity could be much thornier with the global reach of the Internet.
J. Robert Flores, a commission member and senior counsel at the
National Law Center for Children and Families, said such challenges shouldn't
deter the United States from making an effort to protect kids from hardcore
pornography that is created overseas.
"The simple fact that it's difficult is the same problem we face with
copyright, narcotics (and) international property laws," said Flores, who is
also a former Justice prosecutor. "No one says to those, 'Gee, we can't control
what other countries do.' "
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