Tuesday, July 11, 2006

 

Barton: Congress Must Strike Right Balance In Keeping Children Safe on the Internet

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made the following statement today during the Telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee hearing entitled "H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006."

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to extend a personal welcome to my good friend, personal friend of long standing, the attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott. Glad to have you here, General. We appreciate you being willing to testify on this small panel of seven other people. We appreciate your humility and we certainly appreciate your service to the state of Texas and with extension, some of the things you're doing for the citizens of our entire country.

"We're here today to have a legislative hearing on H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006. It has been authored by Congressman Fitzpatrick who is also with us here on the dais. I'd like to welcome some of our witnesses who have testified before Mr. Whitfield's subcommittee, who has been holding a series of hearings on this problem. We have Mr. Chris Kelly from Facebook and we have Ms. Parry Aftab from WebSafety.org. They've already participated in Mr. Whitfield's hearings and we are glad to have you hear for the legislative hearing. We were not able to get a representative of MySpace to testify at today's hearing, which I think is unfortunate.

"The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee has been holding a series of hearings to investigate the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. These hearings have focused on the growing Internet child pornography trade and the tools that sexual predators use to victimize our children. We've also tried to determine what, if anything, is being done, or can be done, to find, prosecute and convict the child predators in our society. The oversight subcommittee has heard from the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, law enforcement agencies, children that have been subjected to sexual abuse. We've also heard from victims advocates and some of the Internet Service Providers.

"H.R. 5319 would target children's use of social networking Web sites and chat rooms in schools and libraries. As participation in these Internet 'social communities' rises to record numbers, so do news reports of a multitude of potential dangers that they pose.

"There is no question that the Internet does and will continue to provide innovative benefits to society. However, we must take steps now to protect our children. This is a priority of this subcommittee and also the full committee and I might add it's a priority on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Dingell shares this concern just as much as I do. We need to prevent predators from using the Internet, and social networking sites in particular, to prey on our children.

"I think our witnesses today are going to give us a better understand the social networking phenomenon and the benefits and the problems it creates. If we can understand this, it will enable us to strike the right balance regarding the appropriate role for the federal government and federal legislation play in helping our educators keep our children safe on the Internet.

"It would seem to me that H.R. 5319 is a step in the right direction. Schools and libraries that receive universal service subsidies have an obligation to ensure that their subsidized communications services do not become a hunting ground for pedophiles. If social networking sites are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the exploitation of children, then, at the very least, Congress should prohibit the use of federally mandated funds to access Internet sites that put children in harm's way.

"Again, I want to thank Attorney General Abbott for being here. I thank the other witnesses for being here and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing."
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