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Lawmakers propose bills to stop online predators

March 17, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Children could be better protected from online predators if the Maryland General Assembly adopts legislation being proposed by two members of Washington County's delegation.

Under the bills, sponsored by Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, Internet providers would need to give parents ways to block, filter or monitor Web sites used by their children. Service providers who limit Internet access for customers believed to be a threat to children also would be granted immunity against claims they have infringed on people's rights.

"Internet access is not an inalienable right," Mooney said.

Both bills were heard in committees Tuesday. No action was taken.

Under the bills, an Internet service provider that fails to prevent an online predator from contacting children also would be granted immunity.

The bills also would allow a law enforcement officer to request an Internet provider to provide information about customers, and requires the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to make certain information available, like e-mail addresses and online handles.

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The bills also would allow a judge to require special Internet supervision for those convicted of a child sex offense.

Mooney and Shank said the bills, which were cross-filed in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, were drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

"There are constantly reports in the national media and it's a concern of many parents ... Their children are being lured and strangers are on the Internet lurking as this threat reaches into the digital age," Shank said. "The social networks can be a wonderful way to communicate, but it can also be a very dangerous place."

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