Connecticut General Assembly

Testimony of Braden Cox, Policy Counsel of the NetChoice Coalition

March 4, 2008

In Support of H.B. 5790 – An Act Concerning the Internet  and Protection of Children

NetChoice welcomes the opportunity to support H.B. 5790, legislation designed to increase the protection of children on the Internet.

NetChoice is a coalition of trade associations and e-Commerce businesses who share the goal of promoting convenience, choice and commerce on the Net. NetChoice is testifying on behalf of an alliance of leading online and e-commerce companies that have come together to promote online safety, including AOL, IAC, Microsoft, News Corp, and Yahoo!

The online industry has been working hard to provide a safe experience for our customers, and we are committed to do even more. However, online companies cannot make the Internet safer on our own. Industry is enlisting help from teachers, parents, police, and prosecutors. And we’re approaching state governments to add clarity and clout to laws and enforcement efforts.

Last year, the State of Connecticut enacted two important pieces of online safety legislation. In one bill, this legislature required convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and online identifiers. Internet service providers and online companies have access to this data, which may help them remove sexual predators from their services and sites.

In addition, this legislature created the new crime involving enticement of a minor. The law makes it a felony to lie about your age when enticing a child into criminal sexual conduct.

With H.B. 5790, this legislature is building upon the success of last year. This bill is an ambitious and comprehensive package of legislation to better keep our children safe on the Internet. It involves all of the parties that play a necessary role in protecting children online, including parents, teachers, Internet access providers, online companies, law enforcement, and the legislature.

What does this legislation do?

  • Empowers Parents. Internet access providers must make filtering, blocking and monitoring tools available to parents.
  • Educates Children. The legislation provides school districts with online safety curricula for children and educational materials for parents, and requires teaching online safety in the classroom.
  • Increases Post-Conviction Controls on Convicted Sex Offenders. The legislation sets sentencing and parole guidelines that require the state to monitor the online activities of convicted child predators. The legislation also allows judges to impose restrictions on the online activities of convicted child predators.
  • Helps Preserve Internet Evidence for Law Enforcement Investigations. Online services must preserve and disclose customer communications and other evidence upon request of law enforcement officials.
  • Expands the Reach and Enforcement of Child Porn Reporting. The legislation adds state enforcement powers and broadens the scope of online companies that must report images of child porn to the Cyber Tip Line at NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).
  • Creates the New Crime of Internet Sexual Exploitation of a Child. The legislation makes it a crime to use a computer or computer network to encourage a child to engage in or to observe sexual activity while communicating online.
  • Criminalizes the Internet Luring of a Child. The legislation makes it a crime to use a computer or computer network to make sexually suggestive statements and to lure children into face-to-face meetings.

All of the above are necessary elements for addressing the complex and diverse issues surrounding children and Internet communications. Recent studies indicate that it is at-risk youth that are most vulnerable to online predators. Furthermore, much of the time children actually know the sexual nature behind offline meetings, yet still meet anyway. The multifaceted approach of this bill, including parental control software and crimes to deter sexual predators, is sound and prudent recognition that there’s no single cure for safety online.

In conclusion, NetChoice strongly supports H.B. 5790. This bill sets Connecticut apart as a leading state to empower parents, educate kids, and actively help law enforcement pursue and control child predators.

Thank you very much.