Are there sexual predators inside your computer?
Six months ago I warned readers about this. The Internet is rapidly becoming a pool of poison with sexual predators inside and Newfoundland and Labrador is feeling the sting of its deathly venom.
True, the Internet is a 90 per cent safe world wide service offered to average users like me. Unfortunately though, it’s a search engine for sickening weirdoes who have legally signed up. It’s a place to exercise their sexual fantasies and they’re slick and tough to catch.
These days there are powerful new online connects - socially available and often misused. They include Face book, U-Tube, My Space, Craigslist and most recently Twitter.
I’m not saying these very popular blogs are bad, why would I say that?
What I am saying is that these online services are being used for evil purposes, many of which are quite dangerous for anyone to surf in my view.
Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.
Utube is a service linking up two or more users to shop for bargains and things of mutual interest online.
Twitter is the fastest growing social networking tool available on the Internet today - a powerful micro-blogging, free service that has changed the way many people communicate.
Craigslist is a centralized networking of online communities. It includes free advertising, job searches, housing availabilities and internships.
My Space is a social networking website targeted at a general audience including adults and teens.
The common denominator here is people in contact with other people including friends and strangers.
Child porn sting in
On March 28 police in Newfoundland confirmed one of the 57 (note 57) suspects rounded up earlier this week, as part of Project Salvo is a 13-year-old boy from Corner Brook. Project Salvo is the national investigation into Internet-based child pornography.
The RNC press release said the boy is believed to have been the operator of a computer in a private home. This discovery was the result of a search warrant executed by the force’s child exploitation unit. The boy’s identity is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. At the time of writing this, no criminal charges have been laid. Those options include anything from a simple warning to prosecution of criminal charges.
Former RCMP officer
The RCMP in Gander arrested a 72-year-old man charging him with possession of child pornography. The arrest followed a search of a residence a few weeks ago. The defendant was released and is scheduled to appear in provincial court June 16. Ironically the accused is a former RCMP officer.
Project Salvo deemed the largest investigation of its kind in Canadian history, focused on Internet activity in which participants exchanged child porn. Newfoundland and Labrador has been under scrutiny for a long time.
It involved 23 high-tech investigations by the RCMP and 35 regional police operations like the RNC across Canada. To date 71 search warrants were issued and more than 100 criminal charges have been laid.
South of the border
South of the border in the United States, on March 26 I watched an NBC Dateline program designed to catch child molesters before they committed their dastardly act on children as young as 11 years. These men were all in their mid to late 40s, 50s and even 60s. Hidden cameras and surprise intervention led to their arrest. Adults posing online as young boys and girls made contact with these weirdoes.
One example: a guy told a boy he was an 18-year-old girl looking for a friend. He went to the boy’s house and undercover police cameras (and NBC-TV) caught him attempting to make contact in the family living room.
Police moved in quickly cuffed the perp. and read him his rights. The disturbing thing to me, and I suggest for everyone watching the program, was the defendant had previously been arrested for other crimes and was out on parole. The court sentenced him to five years in prison.
In the March 25 Washington Post there was a story: Online tormentor eludes punishment. Here is the gist of the story told by reporter Marc Fisher. It is a clear example of what I’ve been trying to say for the past year.
“First came the phone calls; men, strangers, telling Barbara Goddard they’d seen her personal ad on Craigslist and were eager to come over for her promised casual encounter.
“Later that week, men started showing up at Goddard’s door in Reston, Va., ready for an evening of random sex.
“I’m here in answer to your ad on Craigslist,” they’d say.“You’ve been set up,” Ms Goddard would tell them. By that time she’d figured out what was happening - some predator was posting offers in her name on an online message board, giving her home address.
Goddard called Fairfax County Police, who tried stepping up patrols, even posting an officer inside her apartment. Still, the men kept coming. Both Goddard, 65, and the police say they had a good idea who was behind this cruel cyber scheme, but despite months of effort, noth- ing has been done.
The men who came cannot be arrested. Technically lawyers say they’ve been invited. To date the person behind the phony invitations remains uncharged because the laws protecting people from such attacks aren’t tough enough; culprits make themselves into phantoms, changing e-mail addresses and their identities by the minute; and because the Web site owners used for such harassment resist handing over customer records.
“We all agree there’s a huge void in the law,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who helped Goddard win attention from the police department’s fraud squad in Virginia.
No matter what victimized Goddard said or did, she could not get the situation resolved leaving her still vulnerable to these online Internet harassers - according to the Washington Post story.
Authorities warn now is the time for parents to be extremely cautious and aware of what their children are doing online. Diligence is the key word and that must be exercised every day.
Remember, knowledge, common sense and caution mean safe surfing!