Skip to primary content


Let a Georgia Kid on Your Site and Go to Jail for Five Years

I received an email from Paul Arne, co-chair of the technology group and the privacy and security group at the law firm Morris, Manning & Martin; he is not happy with a bill that is moving through the channels of the Georgia legislature. And watch out FaceBook’s Mark Zuckerberg, you might end up in jail if this bill gets passed. Yikes, so might I.

Here is the essense of the bill SB 59 (georgia-kid-law.pdf ) with Arne’s insert in brackets:

It shall be illegal for the owner or operator of a social networking website [myspace, facebook, linkedin, probably blogger] to allow a minor [under 18] using a protected computer [i.e., one in Georgia] to create or maintain a profile web page on a social networking website without the permission of the minor’s parent or guardian and without providing such parent or guardian access to such profile web page at all times.

First offense is a misdemeanor, second is a felony with imprisonment up to five years.

Of course, as someone who just started a social networking site for SoCon08 to help Georgia businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs, it worries the hell out of me.

Here is Arne’s response to what he, at least according to the subject line of this email thinks is a fairly dumb piece of legislation, but his remarks below are more temperate:

I am sending this email to my Senator (Senator Henson) and all the sponsors of SB 59.

I am a concerned parent. I have 4 children, aged 9, 14, 18, and 20. I am deeply concerned about the potential risks to children associated with social media generally.

I am also a partner at the law firm of Morris, Manning and Martin. I started my firm’s “Web 2.0″ practice group. As a part of my job, I study the business models associated with social networking, I have my own MySpace and FaceBook accounts, and I represent clients who are in this business space. (I am not being paid by any of them; this email is sent as a concerned citizen only.) I also speak and write in this area.

Given my parental and professional background, I consider myself one of the more knowledgeable people, over 50 years of age, about social networking.

A few months ago, there was press coverage of sexual predators and MySpace. At that time, it was reported that MySpace had 29,000 sexual predators who had accessed MySpace. Comparing this to the total number of users of MySpace at the time (about 58 million), that means that there was approximately one sexual predator for every 2,000 persons on MySpace. I can understand that this is a serious concern to legislators, parents, and NewsCorp (who owns MySpace).

Also at that time, I checked to see how many sexual predators were in my own county. At the time, I counted 596 sexual predators listed in DeKalb County. DeKalb County’s population is approximately 723,602. This means that in DeKalb County, there is one sexual predator for every 1,214 people.

As you can see, the ratio of the number of sexual predators to the population in DeKalb County is 61% GREATER than the number of sexual predators on MySpace. My kids may be more at risk of sexual predators at school or at the mall than they are on MySpace. While the larger absolute numbers make for sensational headlines, those numbers merely reflect a problem that we have in society.

Businesses are not interested in having sexual predators on their sites, and at least the larger social networking sites are spending massive amounts of money both to prevent sexual predators from using their systems and to catch and prosecute them. I believe that the owners of social networking sites, such as NewsCorp, Disney, Google, and other large, well-funded companies, are a part of the cure.

Second point. I teach my kids how to deal with social networking. I view this as my role as a parent. I don’t need the government telling me or my kids what to do.

I oppose SB 59. This legislation paints with way too broad a brush, and it is very likely to have severe unintended consequences. I don’t think that it is in our State’s best interest to legislate something that has the potential of excluding the State of Georgia from participating equally with other states in the development of social networking generally, which I believe has the potential to be as important as the rise of the Internet itself.

While we have a clear societal problem with sexual predators, social networking is the only area I know where the resources of businesses have been marshaled to help solve this societal problem. The risks of social networking simply aren’t sufficiently different from this problem in our society at large to justify passing an overly simplistic,potentially damaging (to businesses and the cause of reducing sexual predation), and, in my opinion, poorly thought through legislation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Paul Arne

He thinks anyone interested in social networking should be contacting their legislators too.

3 Responses to “Let a Georgia Kid on Your Site and Go to Jail for Five Years”

  1. Yas Says:

    I couldn’t agree more – using the comparison ratios drives the point home; plus, this bill would “kill” or discourage any business or individual trying to get into the SN wagon as a business…
    Here are some points I found very (listed in OnGuard):

    ” While social networking sites can increase a person’s circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people with less than friendly intentions. Here are tips for helping your kids use social networking sites safely:

    Help your kids understand what information should be private.
    Explain that kids should post only information that you – and they – are comfortable with others seeing.

    Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child’s website.
    Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can’t take it back.
    Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online.
    Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they ever feel uncomfortable or threatened by anything online, encourage them to tell you. ”

    GA. and all other states should focus on educating the public, (parents will educate their kids) and companies need to continue doing their best…

  2. Sean Hayford O'Leary Says:

    Well hold on, though. As I understand it, if Facebook — for example — is headquartered and hosted in California, the state of Georgia has no control over what they do. If a Georgian types in “,” it is he who is requesting a document. When that person enters personal information, it is she who is sending that information to California.

    So if this became law, does this protect Georgia’s minors, or does it just hurt Georgia’s web hosts?

  3. Kicking Over My Traces Says:

    Not the Right Way to Protect Children from Online Predators…

    Leonard Witt at PJNet shines a light on bad Internet regulation in the state of Georgia:

    Here is the essense of the bill SB 59 (georgia-kid-law.pdf) with Arne’s insert in brackets:

    It shall be illegal for the owner or operator of a social networkin…