Because computers are such a prevalent tool for sexual predators to victimize unsuspecting young adults, Illinois House Republican members introduced new legislation Monday that will prevent predator access to social networking sites and strengthen laws against child pornography.

"Teens post their personal information on the Web everyday and they don't realize that not only are their friends reading their personal information, but so are adult predators," said House Republican Leader Tom Cross. "House Republicans were proactive on this issue last year and we passed landmark protections for our children. Attorneys General from around the country recently got involved and formed a task force to study the issue. Today we are proposing legislation to make the Internet a safer place."

It is difficult for a young person using these Web sites to know whether the person they are chatting with is really who they say they are. Just this past July, MySpace found and deleted 29,000 profiles belonging to registered sex offenders -- including 1500 registered sex offenders from Illinois.

Another provision would require electronic and technology employees to report any cases of child pornography to local law enforcement agencies. Any employee that reports child pornography will then be immune from any criminal, civil, or administrative liability in connection with making the report.

Local prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and community leaders also attended the press conference to stress the need for stricter Internet protections.

"I have made it my goal to educate young people and their parents about the dangers of posting personal information on Web sites like MySpace.com. Prosecutors and detectives from my Computer Crimes Unit have been presenting my concerns about these social networking sites to school groups and community organizations across the county," said Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow. "While education is critical, we also must enact laws that give police and prosecutors the tools they need to track down Internet predators and bring them to justice."

"Predators are keeping up with new technology and finding ways to use it to their advantage. It is important that we as lawmakers keep up with the new technology as well and continue to look for new ways to help law enforcement protect our families," said State Senator A.J. Wilhelmi.

Other elements of the new online safety package include legislation:

  • Banning sex offenders from social networking sites.
  • Enhancing child pornography offenses to a Super-Class X felony (9 to 40 years in prison) for multiple images and increasing penalties for child pornography films and videos.
  • Making it a Class X, 1 or 2 felony for an offender to misrepresent his or her age in juvenile solicitation cases.
  • Strengthening current laws under the title of indecent solicitation of an adult to include crimes committed through the Internet.