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Lawsuit Claims BackPage.com Aids Sex Trafficking

By: N i c o l a

Three sex trafficking victims have brought a lawsuit against BackPage.com. The victims claim that the website helps promote the exploitation of children. Lawyers for the victims claim that the girls were sold as prostitutes through ads on BackPage.com. BackPage says that the lawsuit is an attempt at censorship and has asked a judge to dismiss the case. The judge declined, BackPage appealed.

The Washington Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. BackPage believes the case should be thrown out because the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives it immunity from the activities of its members. The victims say they were raped multiple times when they were teenagers and that the website is partially responsible for their sex trafficking.

KiroTV.com reported, “According to court documents, when pimps forced the women to offer sex on the controversial website, Backpage never verified their ages and instructed sex traffickers not to use certain words or graphics to avoid scrutiny from the public and police.”

During the arguments, the Supreme Court Justice’s asked both sides whether BackPage was part of contributing, developing or creating content for the website. The attorney for BackPage claimed that it was clear that his client did not create or develop the ads that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs. He argues that this is an effort to chill online speech.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the first attempt by the United States to regulate pornographic material on the internet. It criminalized the transmission of materials that were “obscene or indecent” to persons known to be under 18. However, many portions of CDA have been struck down for violating the right to free speech.

The BackPage lawsuit could have a major effect on sex trafficking. The ruling in the case could also have a huge impact on free speech in the online world.

If you suspect child sex trafficking, it should be reported to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Yik Yak App: A Parent Guide to Social Media

By: Jason Howie
By: Jason Howie

The Yik Yak app is a social media app that acts like a social media bulletin board. The Yik Yak webpage states, “It allows anyone to connect and share information with others without having to know them.” This could be very problematic for parents. Although the app webpage does state that the app is for users 17+ it has not prevented younger users from signing up.

Yik Yak is extremely popular with teens in high school. It has found such popularity through word-of-mouth. Many students who have heard of the app have only heard about it placed in a negative context yet they still take the plunge and download the app to use it.

CNN reported that “Some students have compared it to a virtual bathroom wall where users post vitriol and hate.” Fox News reported that it was the ultimate tool for bullies. Other media outlets have also reported that Yik Yak is a platform for hate speech or harrasment.

Recently, the Washington Post did a report on how Yik Yak has become a scourge across the land on high school and college campuses from California to Concord, N.H. Some incidents that have happened due to the app include a student leaking a video sex tape, 2 students charged with felonies over posts made to the app bulletin board, and another student charged and arrested for making threats about a “Virginia Tech 2” promise on the bulletin board of Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is currently in the process of being banned on high school and college campuses. Parents should encourage their children to delete this app from their smartphones if they downloaded it. There are other apps that are safer for kids to use. Parents can ensure that kids don’t download the app by setting up age restrictions on their child’s mobile device. Parents can also encourage their child’s school to block the app by asking the school to request a geofence.

Lawsuit Claims BackPage.com Aids Sex Trafficking

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Three sex trafficking victims have brought a lawsuit against BackPage.com. The victims claim that the website helps promote the exploitation of children. Lawyers for the victims claim that the girls were sold as prostitutes through ads on BackPage.com. BackPage says that the lawsuit is an attempt at censorship and has asked a judge to dismiss the case. The judge declined, BackPage appealed.

The Washington Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. BackPage believes the case should be thrown out because the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives it immunity from the activities of its members. The victims say they were raped multiple times when they were teenagers and that the website is partially responsible for their sex trafficking.

KiroTV.com reported, “According to court documents, when pimps forced the women to offer sex on the controversial website, Backpage never verified their ages and instructed sex traffickers not to use certain words or graphics to avoid scrutiny from the public and police.”

During the arguments, the Supreme Court Justice’s asked both sides whether BackPage was part of contributing, developing or creating content for the website. The attorney for BackPage claimed that it was clear that his client did not create or develop the ads that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs. He argues that this is an effort to chill online speech.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the first attempt by the United States to regulate pornographic material on the internet. It criminalized the transmission of materials that were “obscene or indecent” to persons known to be under 18. However, many portions of CDA have been struck down for violating the right to free speech.

The BackPage lawsuit could have a major effect on sex trafficking. The ruling in the case could also have a huge impact on free speech in the online world.

If you suspect child sex trafficking, it should be reported to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

WebSafety Keeps Kids Safe on the Internet

By: Enokson
By: Enokson

WebSafety is a new cell phone app that allows parents to keep their children safe on the internet. It gives parents real-time information about the who, what and where of what their kids are doing online. The app helps parents monitor their children’s behavior and their whereabouts through real-time alerts.

web safety app

In an Interview between Michele Borba product developer of WebSafety, she mentions that WebSafety is very important for parents because it keeps them alerted to when their children are posting personal information and inappropriate things on the internet. She says that one of the most common things that kids do to make themselves vulnerable in the cyber world is the posting of private information.

The WebSafety app empowers parents to keep track of their childrens’ smartphone and tablet usage. It can trigger alerts for vulgar language, flag websites and monitor apps that kids and teens download onto their phones and tablets. WebSafety also offers geo-tracking. Parents can make sure kids are where they say they are going to be. It also allows parents to create a 25 mile geofence to alert them when the child has left the area.

WebSafety is running a limited time promotion of 50% off to the first 25,000 new subscribers to 6-month and 12-month subscriptions. It is available on most Android Smartphones and Tablets. iOS Support Coming Soon!

Pricing Packages start at $3.99 

  • Protects one child device.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $3.99/month.
  • Purchase a year’s subscription for $39.99, and two months free.

$11.99 / month

  • Protects four children’s devices.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $2.99/month.

$14.99 / month

  • Protects six children’s devices.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $2.49/month.
  • Purchase a year’s subscription for $149.99 and save over 16%.

Borba believes that the first step in protecting children on the internet is for parents to have the ability to be informed. She says that parents need to keep an open line of communication with their children and she recommends that kids be told when they are being monitored. Kids who know they are being watched will think more about what put out in the cyber world and more about who they are engaging with online.

Subtweeting: What Is It?

By: Rosaura Ochoa

A popular digital trend in the online world is the development of subtweeting. It is fast becoming a trend among teens and tweens. Subtweeting may sound like an innocent new trend in social media or a new fad that kids are just trying on for size. In reality, subtweeting is the newest form of cyberbullying to hit the digital world.

Subtweeting according to the Urban Dictionary means “indirectly tweeting about someone without mentioning their name. Even though their name is not mentioned, it is clear who the person tweeting is referring to.” The trend allows users to talk negatively or gossip about a person without taking responsibility for their words.

A better explanation of subtweeting can be found in an article by Kate Knibbs at Digital Trends. She writes, “But not all Twitter users want to engage in tweet-to-tweet combat with their enemies. Some prefer to call their nemeses out behind their back –which is kind of hard to do considering your tweets are usually public and your rivals may or may not follow you. And there’s a term for this underhanded insult-slinging: It’s call subtweeting.”

Subtweeting is a passive-aggressive way to cyberbully without having to be held accountable. It is more common among high school students and young Twitter users; teens and tweens. The trend has been around since 2012 and is an original modification to the Twitter culture.  Its popularity has moved into other social media outlets including Facebook and Instagram.  On Facebook, people use the hashtag #subtweet to make an insult about another user without mentioning the user’s name.

Parents of teens and tweens need to be aware that subtweeting is a hurtful practice that can cause ripples of negative behavior. Monitoring the social media posts that your children make can help you take notice of whether your teen or tween is engaged in subtweeting. Teens and tweens often take to social media to vent their frustrations, it is important for parents to teach them that online communication isn’t the best option when the real issues they are having with someone can be addressed in real life through the non-digital mode of communication –talking.

Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

By: Wen Tong Neo

McAfee released a study in June that exposed a shocking revelation for the parents of tweens and teens. The 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying exposed that teens often over share personal information and are willing engage strangers online.

The survey highlighted some important findings. Private lives are not so private. Teens often seek social networks considered to be the “no parent zone.” Cyberbullying is still prevalent on the world wide web and teens are often the victim. Cyberbullying conflicts are also carried into offline altercations.

Some of the statistics are startling. Continue reading Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

Stand Against Spying- A Coalition Seeking to Stop Government Mass Spy Programs

By: Alan Cleaver

A coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum has joined forces to fight mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group has launched a website called “Stand Against Spying” and has become a watchdog of Congress. Although the organizations are vastly different in terms of missions, goals, and communities they all agree that mass surveillance is a violation of the United States Constitution. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tenth Amendment Center, Greenpeace, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and UpWorthy are all part of the coalition fighting back against the government spy programs created by the NSA.

Stand Against Spying allows users to put in their address and zipcode to see how their representative is voting on issues regarding mass surveillance. Each member of Congress is rated on his or her actions to end or promote mass surveillance.

The method used to rate members of Congress was different for the House and for the Senate. For the House, votes for the two strongest bills against mass spying were considered; the Surveillance State Repeal Act and the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act. Senate members were rated on whether they co-sponsored the original USA FREEDOM Act and if they have come out publicly claiming a commitment to cosponsoring the Act when Congress is back in session (July 7).

The website requests that users sign an open letter to President Obama. The letter sets out the goals, beliefs and mission of Stand Against Spying.

It reads:

“Dear Mr. President,

As citizens of the Internet, we believe that mass surveillance by the NSA and its global partners infringes on our civil liberties, runs contrary to democratic principles, and chills free expression.

We’re calling on you to take immediate steps to end the mass spying. Specifically, we urge you to stop the mass collection and retention of telephone records and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of a crime.

In addition, we call on you to provide a full public accounting of the intelligence community’s mass surveillance practices.”

Read the full letter here. Internet citizens are encouraged to sign the open letter to take a stand against spying.

 

Personal Data: Who Has Your Back?

By: byron alcantara

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its fourth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. You might be surprised about which companies have your back and which companies don’t. The report looks at the policies and practices of various technology companies and gives companies stars for certain items that address security concerns of consumers.  Stars are given out if companies “require a warrant for content,” “tell users about government data requests,” “fight for users’ privacy rights in courts,” etc. A maximum of six stars can be obtained by each company.

Some of the top technology companies received gold stars across the board for protecting your data. Google, Apple, and Twitter all have your back and will fight for your privacy rights both in the courts and in Congress.  EFF was pleased to find out that many companies, rocked by high-profile disclosures of the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) spying on online accounts, responded by increasing their commitment to transparency and pushed back against mass surveillance.

The companies with the lowest amount of stars included Snapchat, Amazon, and AT&T. Snapchat was ranked least likely to have your back protecting your personal data. It does not require a warrant for content, does not promise to tell users if their data is sought by the government, and does not publicly oppose mass surveillance.

Amazon.com received credit for requiring a warrant for content. According to the EFF report, Amazon receives credit because of testimony from its Vice President for Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, before the House Judiciary Committee in 2010: “With respect to the content of electronic communications, we believe that ECPA requires law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant to compel disclosure. We do not release information without valid process and have not disclosed content without a search warrant.”

Although, Amazon.com’s stance is to obtain a warrant it does not promise users that it will tell them if the government demands data. The company has also never published a transparency report showing government requests for data, does not publish its guidelines for law enforcement seeking access to data, and it has not publicly opposed mass surveillance through a written statement.

Some companies have shown improvement over the past four years including Verizon (earned 4 stars), Microsoft (earned 6 stars), and Tumblr (earned 5 stars). Protecting personal data is extremely important to consumers and it is apparent that it is increasingly important to companies.

Skype Safety Tips for Kids and Parents

By: jayneandd

The internet is a dangerous place especially for kids who are not tech savvy enough to realize a potential threat lurking on the web. Skype is a free video chat and instant messaging service widely used for family and friends to keep in touch with each other. Parents and kids often use the service as it was intended, but sometimes kids and parents get a rude shock.

Skype users have been affected by such items as a video of a naked person, inappropriately touching themselves, tasteless messages sent to young unsuspecting individuals, and compromised personal information. Online safety is a priority to keep both children and parents out of harm’s way.

Skype Safety Tip #1

Always monitor your child while they are using Skype. Know who your child is chatting with and make sure nothing inappropriate is happening in the chat room. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure that the computer or tablet being used is in a common room of the home.

Skype Safety Tip #2

Make sure personal information is kept private by updating privacy settings. First, make sure to use a long, unique password that uses a combination of numbers, letters and characters to prevent the account from being hacked. Next, update privacy settings on Skype to limit communications and protect your private information. Teach kids not to put personal information in a Skype profile because some of it could be made public.

Skype Safety Tip #3

Teach kids about “stranger danger” and what to do if they are approached out in the real world and what do to if they are approached online by a stranger.  Teach children to tell a trusted adult immediately if they are approached by a stranger on Skype or any other internet chat service.

Skype Safety Tip #4

Protect your computer by making sure an antivirus or anti-malware program is installed. Skype users can be subject to viruses and malware that can cause computers to run slowly, corrupt data, and cause vulnerabilities.

Skype Safety Tip #5

Report any incidents to local authorities.  Take a screen shot of the chat and save everything of importance to give to police.  This includes the username of the other party, the time and date of the conversation, and any other pertinent details about the conversation.  The incident will be investigated.

 

Eraser Challenge Draws Concerns from Parents and Schools

By: Pink Sherbet Photography

A dangerous game called “Eraser Challenge” has gone viral and is fast becoming popular with teenagers. The game challenges teens to use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and the elbow while reciting the alphabet. Teens come up with a word for each letter that they rub onto their skin with the eraser.  Opponents compare the wounds of the game after they reach the letter Z.

Bethel Middle School got wind of the game when several students started showing up in the nurse’s office with marks on their arms from playing the game. Students confessed to the game and after some investigation the Principal of Bethel Middle School Derek Muharam said a random collection of a dozen students were found to be playing different games as part of the challenge.

“They’re saying the alphabet but they’re creating a word for it,” Principal Derek Muharem said. “So it’s a for apple, b for boy.”

Muharem also reported that students were sharing erasers which makes the game not only dangerous but also unsanitary.  A letter was sent home to parents regarding the challenge which can be read in full here.

There were approximately a dozen students in various grades participating in the game when it was originally reported in March.  Since that time many Youtube videos have begun popping up with the “Eraser Challenge” as a featured element. Some of the videos have anywhere from 5,000 up to 30,000 plus hits.

Some of the wounds experienced by students playing this game include pain, severe irritation, bleeding, scarring and possible infection.

“I don’t understand why kids are mutilation themselves or doing things to hurt themselves,” said parent John Luhrs whose daughter is in sixth grade at Bethel Middle School.

The school has notified parents and said that no student will be reprimanded for their actions. The goal of the school and the parents is to make sure that kids stop attempting to hurt themselves by succumbing to peer pressure that looks cool on the internet.