Cyberspace, or the Internet, is a marvelous educational tool. Unfortunately, it also is a tool used by perverts and other lawbreakers. Anything law enforcement officials can legally do to keep those with evil intent off the Internet and alert the populace to the dangers of the Internet is welcomed.
A recent online sting operation in Logan shows how precarious the cyberspace journey can be.A Logan police officer posed as a 13-year-old boy venturing into cyberspace. Within an hour of posting his profile with America Online, the "youth" had an adult electronic pen pal, who began chatting with him regularly.
After awhile the conversations began to change and the new friend began sending certain pictures and repeatedly asking to meet. A meeting was arranged, but instead of finding a 13-year-old boy, the adult instead found five Logan police officers. The adult was arrested and pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. At the time of his arrest the adult was carrying a floppy disk with image files of minor boys engaged in sexual acts.
Such operations are very time consuming, sometimes taking months before any kind of action is taken. Policing cyberspace adequately, therefore, is hard. What Logan law enforcement officials and others hope is that the above example will serve as a catalyst to make parents more aware of how much danger lurks in cyberspace and how vulnerable children can be.
Obviously, this is a national problem. To help schools and libraries combat it, a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., provides for federally subsidized Internet hookups if the schools and libraries use screening software that prevents children from accessing Web sites with indecent material.
As this page has recommended before, the various online services should also do their part in preventing obscene garbage from being dumped in cyberspace.
In a voluntary agreement last December, backed by the Clinton administration and industry groups covering 95 percent of home Internet users, Internet providers said they would remove child pornography from their own bulletin boards and services and would report activities involving such filth to law enforcement officials.
That's a good first step in ridding the Internet of a social cancer that puts children at risk and is spread by pedophiles.
As the incident in Logan, shows, however, much more needs to be done. Companies such as AOL, that serve as the gateway to the Internet for millions, need to do more on their own to block or remove obscene material from their services.
That coupled with law enforcement efforts and parental supervision will go a long way toward making cyberspace a place where children can safely travel.