Task Force Study on Social Networking

“New study shows social-networking sites safer than we think.” This was a typical headline following last month’s release of a new Harvard University report: “Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies.” As a result, much discussion and concern surfaced in the technology crime blogosphere and on various law enforcement listservs.

The law enforcement concern is that some will see the report as proof that social networking sites are only a minimal threat to children. The social networking sites, I am sure, will take it as vindication that they are doing nothing wrong.

However, the report—which comprised the findings of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a group that included leaders from the social networking industry and child advocate groups—admitted that many online crimes are probably underreported. Its review of the current literature primarily concluded (typical of academia) that more studying needed to be done.

Toward this end, the new study recommended an “Expenditure of Resources”: “…greater resources should be allocated to law enforcement for the training and developing of technology tools to enhance law enforcement officers’ computer forensic skills; to develop online undercover operations; and to enhance community policing efforts to educate minors, parents, and communities about youth safety.”

In fact, WebCase is already available; Vere Software developed WebCase to aid in this very situation. As the ISTTF and other groups continue to research and devote resources to Internet safety, so too will Vere Software continue to provide its customers with the tools required to accomplish their jobs. It is our hope that more accurate information in greater quantity and quality will encourage the social networking sites to continue to work with the attorneys general to prevent online crime.

Overall, the fact that attention is focused on the issue is a good thing. As Boing Boing puts it: “But of course, now that we know that kids are more threatened by the (less-sexy, less-mediagenic) scourge of bullying than the (incredibly scary, totally mediagenic) risk of sexual predation, we’ll divert funds and resources to the real risk, right?” Continued emphasis on, and resources funneled toward, Internet child protection will ultimately keep this in front of the powers who need to continue to protect children online.

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