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Most sex crimes against children are committed by people the children know, rather than strangers.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children processed 3,638 reports of online “enticement” of children by adults last year, down from 4,053 in 2010 and 5,759 in 2009.
Sites aimed at those under 13 are very different from those with large teen audiences.
Under a 1998 law known as COPPA, for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, sites directed at those 12 and under must have verified parental consent before collecting data on children.
Such efforts generally start with automated screening for inappropriate language and exchanges of personal information, and extend to using the records of convicted pedophiles’ online chats to teach the software what to seek out.
The failures at Skout and Habbo shocked child-safety experts and technology professionals, who fear they will lead to a renewed panic about online safety that is not justified by the data.
By some measures, Internet-related sex crimes against children have always been rare and are now falling (as are reports of assaults on minors that do not involve the Net).
The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.
“The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible,” said Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries.The venture-backed firm had not verified that users of its now-shuttered teen section were under 20, giving predators easy access.