February 23, 2007
LEGISLATION REGARDING MYSPACE
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked whether there is any proposed Connecticut or federal legislation to monitor MySpace.com.
We did not find any bills in Connecticut or the U.S. Congress specifically about monitoring social networking websites such MySpace.com. But we did find a number of bills about Internet safety, social networking, and online sexual predators.
In Connecticut, a proposed bill (HB 5839) would require public schools to provide instruction in grades kindergarten to twelve on proper and safe use of the Internet. Another proposed bill (SB 900) would increase the penalty for and supervision of a person who uses a computer to entice a child under age 13 to engage in prostitution or sexual activity for which such person may be charged with a criminal offense. In addition, other bills (such as HB 7086) address penalties and registration requirements for sex offenders.
In the U.S. Congress, two identical bills called the “Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators (KIDS) Act of 2007” would require sex offenders to register their email and instant message addresses, and other Internet identifiers with the federal Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Registry (S 431 and HR 719). Among their provisions, the bills would:
1. require sex offenders to keep their email and instant message addresses and identifiers up to date, provide new ones before using them, and punish the failure to report these addresses with up to 10 years in prison;
2. allow a commercial social networking website to compare its list of registered users to the list of sex offender email and instant message addresses and other Internet identifiers; and
3. make it a crime for someone age 18 or older to misrepresent his age to use the Internet to engage in criminal sexual contact with a child, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
According to media reports, MySpace joined a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives and senators in supporting this legislation (“Congress, MySpace Team Up to Fight Sexual Predators, ABC News, January 30, 2007).
Another bill in Congress, S 49, the “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act,” contains provisions called the “Deleting Online Predators Act of 2007.” This bill changes the requirements for schools and libraries to be eligible for discounted rates for telecommunication services. The bill adds a requirement that schools protect minors against access to a commercial social networking website or chat room unless for an educational purpose with adult supervision. Similarly, libraries must protect against minors' access without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room and inform parents that sexual predators can uses these sites and chat rooms to prey on children.
The bill also requires the Federal Trade Commission to issue a consumer alert and establish a website about the dangers to children from using the Internet including information about commercial social networking sites and chat rooms where a child predator can access a child user's personal information.
Two other identical bills (S 519 and HR 875) require electronic service providers to report on-line child pornography and make failure to report a federal crime. Under these bills, called the “Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act of 2007,” service providers would give information to the Cyber Tipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center would then forward information to the appropriate federal, state, or foreign law enforcement agency.