The Internet Safety Technical Task Force recently released its final report, titled “Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies.” The Task Force prepared the report at the request of 50 state Attorneys General “to determine the extent to which today’s technologies could help to address . . . online safety risks” including “the dangers of sexual solicitation, online harassment, and bullying, and exposure to problematic and illegal content.” The Task Force concluded “the risks minors face online are complex and multifaceted and are in most cases not significantly different than those they face offline, and that as they get older, minors themselves contribute to some of the problems.” (Today’s class discussion about cyberbullying, involving students far closer to the problem than me, echoed this conclusion.” Cherry-picking from the 278-page report’s Executive Summary:
- The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does not always increase minors’ exposure. Unwanted exposure to pornography does occur online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male minors.
- Social network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment, most likely because they are broadly adopted by minors and are used primarily to reinforce pre-existing social relations.
- [Minors] who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.
The Task Force reviewed numerous technologies intended to protect child safety online “including age verification and identity authentication, filtering and auditing, text analysis, and biometrics,” a review that produced “a state of cautious optimism.” The report did “note that almost all technologies submitted present privacy and security issues that should be weighed against any potential benefits. Additionally, because some technologies carry an economic cost and some require involvement by parents and teachers, relying on them may not protect society’s most vulnerable minors.” The Task Force “cautions against overreliance on technology in isolation or on a single technological approach.”