That's Why You Have to Put Chips in Their Heads


In the Hartford Advocate, Hit & Run regular Jennifer Abel dissects a law proposed by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that would make anyone convicted of a crime against a child subject to "continued supervision, either in person or through remote monitoring, of the person's ingoing and outgoing e-mail and other Internet-based communication"; examination of "the person's history of [W]eb sites visited"; and "periodic unannounced inspections of the contents of the person's computer or any other device with Internet access." Abel notes that such supervision is easily accomplished but also easily evaded:

What's this guy going to do if he wants to go online without police oversight? For starters, he can go to a public library. Or an Internet café. With a few hundred in cash, he can even buy a cheap, untraceable laptop and bring it to a coffeehouse or restaurant with open wireless Internet access, or drive through town looking for a wireless hot spot. (Depending on where he lives, he could access several of his neighbors' unsecured wireless connections from his own apartment. And so long as he doesn't download movies or other data-heavy files, chances are his neighbors will never know he's there.)

Yes, it'll be easy for him to get online without supervision. And once he's there, he can open an unlimited number of free and anonymous Web e-mail accounts like Hotmail or Yahoo, and register to join chat forums where kids hang out. The law won't prevent him from contacting your kids; at most, it will make such contact slightly more inconvenient.

The Blumenthal-backed bill also would require that ISPs provide Connecticut subscribers with parental control options. As Abel notes, the courts may view this mandate as unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce. In any case, the need for it is debatable:

We couldn't find a comprehensive list of every single ISP selling Web access somewhere in Connecticut, but a quick poll of our officemates yielded 13 companies, mostly familiar names like Comcast, AT&T, Optimum and Juno. All 13 offer parental controls as part of their packages. By contrast, we couldn't find a single ISP without this option.

Last month I noted a study that debunks the stereotypical view of Internet-related sex crimes, which overwhelmingly involve teenagers who knowingly and voluntarily meet adults for sex, as opposed to prepubescent children tricked and coerced by molesters.

[Thanks to NoStar for the tip.]