Advocates: ‘Can’t arrest our way out of’ online predators

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WASHINGTON (WOOD) — Federal authorities and child advocates are calling on Congress to better protect children online.

“Tens of thousands of children are being exploited online,” said Duffie Stone with the National District Attorneys Association.

“It’s a problem that we really can’t arrest our way out of. The volume alone is just staggering,” said John Clark of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

They say Congress needs to lay down the law, stopping big tech companies like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube from exposing kids to inappropriate content and dangerous predators.

“We need to simplify this process, to help more parents protect their children,” said Chris McKenna, CEO and founder of Protect Young Eyes in West Michigan.

McKenna, who is also a parent, says most apps don’t warn parents about risky content on their platforms. He says two simple solutions could change everything: creating an independent review process to give each app an accurate age requirement, and installing defaults on children’s phones and computers that would automatically block explicit material.

At Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were quick to support the measures, but said a major policy stands in the way. A provision of the Communications Decency Act states social media platforms aren’t legally responsible for what their users post.

“If we can’t sue Snapchat or Instagram for the content that’s there, then there’s not going to be any accountability,” said McKenna.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wants to establish best practice standards major tech companies must follow, or risk getting sued.

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