Feds to warn teen girls of Net perils

Tech Culture

As if creeps lurking in the mall or outside the softball practice fields aren't enough, teenage girls need to be on the look-out for another peril: creeps on the Internet.

It may sound like common sense, but that's the message the Feds and safety watchdogs hope to get across through a new public service campaign unveiled Monday by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Designed to target young females in particular, the ads will warn against posting images or information that "might put them at risk for online victimization," a Justice Department press release said.

"This ad campaign will raise awareness to help safeguard against sexual exploitation and abuse by encouraging children to protect their identities and images when socializing online," Gonzales said in a statement.

Partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Ad Council, the Justice Department plans to debut the PSAs early next year. They're the follow-up to a 2005 series of PSAs geared toward teen girls and part of a broader program called "Project Safe Childhood," hatched by the department in February with the lofty goal of preventing children from falling prey to sexual predators on the Internet.

As part of that push, the attorney general also suggested it may be necessary to require Internet service providers to retain data about their subscribers for a "reasonable" length of time so that it could be available for police during investigations. That move led to closed-door meetings with ISPs, which have questioned the necessity of such a move.

The topic has also shaped up to be a major focus in Congress this year. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would effectively require that school and libraries that receive federal subsidies to render "chat rooms" and "social networking sites" inaccessible to minors using their computers. That proposal still awaits Senate action.

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