Last month, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced his CyberCrime Public Service Campaign, “Think Before You Post“, designed to teach youth about the dangers of Internet predators. Florida’s aggressive new “CyberCrimes Against Children Act of 2007” would increase the penalty for Internet predators to up to 30 years in prison.
The legislation will also increase penalties when an offender misrepresents his age in order to seduce a child over the Internet. This technique, known as “grooming,” is a behavior where the sex offender attempts to demonstrate that he is closer in age to the child in order for the child to feel more comfortable with the online communication. By creating a false sense of trust conveyed by a “common age,” the offender breaks down the child’s suspicions and defenses.
The Cybercrimes Against Children Act of 2007 will:
• Create a new second degree felony, with up to a fifteen year jail sentence, for predators that contact a child online and then attempt to meet the child for the purpose of abusing them sexually.
• Increase penalties for possession or promotion of child pornography that include images of children under five, sexual battery of a child, sadomasochistic abuse of child, bestiality involving a child or any pornographic video or live movie of a child.
- For possession of these images, the charge increases a second degree felony from a third degree felony (increases jail time from five years to fifteen years).
- For promotion and distribution of these images, the charge increases to a first degree felony from a second degree felony (increases jail time from fifteen to thirty years jail time).
• Penalizes offenders for any misrepresentation of their age as it relates to Internet sex crimes involving minors. Such an offense would be classified as a second degree felony.
• Expands the jurisdictional oversight of the Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP). The bill allows the OSP to take initiative in any child abuse case related to or facilitated by the Internet, in addition to allowing the OSP to intervene in all criminal cases involving Internet crime in general.
• Broadens current law to encompass all computer related devices or equipment which is used to transmit sexual images or engage in lewd or indecent conversation with a minor. Additionally, the bill allows each illicit Internet contact between a minor and an adult to be charged separately.
• Requires mandatory reporting of sexual predators’ email addresses and instant message screen names. This information would be added to the data already compiled by the Department of Law Enforcement, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Department of Corrections, and local sheriffs’ offices.
• Allows the Department of Law Enforcement to release email or screen name data to commercial social networking websites. When MySpace.com, or any other social networking site, comes across the email address or IM name of a registered sex offender they will now have the ability to both delete and/or block these individuals from accessing their site.