Ah, that warm cozy feeling of paper tiger legislation. Those times when our elected officials join together in unity to proclaim that with a wave of their wand all will be right with the world.
In this case, the ill is convicted sex offenders trolling Internet social networking sites looking to snatch up good little boys and girls ” and the “abracadabra” comes in the form of House Bill 2934, the Electronic Security and Targeting Online Predators Act ” or better known as E-Stop. Authored by state Rep. Ken Luttrell, D-Ponca City, if passed would force registered sex offenders in Oklahoma to provide law enforcement with their e-mail addresses, screen names and all Internet identifiers.
No, Luttrell doesn’t want to make sure he can “friend,” “poke” or “tweet” Chester the Molester. On the contrary, Luttrell claims that this bill will, “proactively work to protect our children from being preyed upon on social networking sites.”
Obviously, this bill reads great on paper and probably sounds even better when Luttrell is singing its praises while pounding fist to chest. The rub though comes from that testy little obstacle I like to refer to as reality.
First, Luttrell is no social networking maven. A call to his office confirmed his only social networking presence is a Facebook page with a paltry friend base of 243. Maybe therein lies his detachment from the socially tuned-in.
HB 2934 makes no attempt to define a “social networking site,” makes no mention of the mechanism or cost of how the information will be collected and disseminated, and doesn’t even consider how the law would be enforced by already overburdened and underfunded municipalities.
Social networking goes far beyond Facebook and MySpace. Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of new social networking Web sites and smartphone apps are launched into the hands and homes of our children.
Currently, registered sex offenders in Oklahoma are required to provide their current home address to authorities. A quick check of the online registry shows that 826 offenders don’t even bother.
While a person typically has only one home address, they can potentially have dozens of e-mail addresses, screen names and profiles that are virtually untraceable and deleted or changed with a couple of taps on a keyboard.
It isn’t the sex offenders that comply with this legislation that are a danger to society. It is the ones that will not only ignore it ” and will exploit the false sense of security this bill brings ” that are the real danger.
Security on the Internet doesn’t come from legislation; it comes from the active participation in the online experience by parents with their children.
Bates, aka “The Video Vigilante,” is founder of JohnTV.com.