The Week in Online Safety, July 4, 2011
A weekly global view of online safety news, policy developments, research, and influence 

Supreme Court Ruling on Violent Videogames: Reactions
Last week, the Supreme Court struck down a California law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors, The Washington Post reports.  The ruling is here.  Online safety advocates offered various opinions on the outcome of the closely-watched case.  Parry Aftab blogged that the Court had ruled “in favor of parent’s rights,” and that “using ratings and talking to other parents, teachers and professionals can help parents figure out their own comfort zone. Those decisions should be made by the family, not the government.”  Adam Thierer of the Mercatus Center agreed, stating in a blog post that, “this is the proper approach for a society that cherishes free speech, freedom of expression, and personal responsibility. The Court did a great thing here today.”  Not all online safety advocates were pleased, though.  Common Sense Media issued a press release denouncing the ruling, saying “today’s decision is a disappointing one for parents, educators, and all who care about kids,” and that “this is a sanity issue, not a censorship issue.” 

Online Safety Legislation
New Jersey became the latest state to pass legislation to lessen penalties for underage ‘sexting.’  The New Jersey Senate followed the Assembly and passed A 1561, which Mobiledia reports, would force minors to “undergo intense educational programs rather than face criminal prosecution.”  The bill awaits a signature by the governor. 

Rhode Island’s General Assembly has passed a bill to address cyberbullying in schools, H 5094.  The Boston Globe reports “the proposal would lay out new rules for teachers and administrators on how to respond to reports of bullying.” 

Two weeks ago Tennessee enacted a new anti-cyberbullying law, HB 300 , which adds electronic communications to existing anti-harassment statutes.  However, the ACLU has immediately challenged the law on free speech grounds, the Knoxville News reports.  In a press release, the ACLU of Tennessee stated, “this new law creates a chilling effect on expressive political, artistic, and otherwise lawful speech and also turns political activists, artists and others into criminals.”

Cyberbullying
Countries around the world continue to look for ways to address the problem of cyberbullying.  The Australian Human Rights Commission called cyberbullying “an abuse of human rights,” and will develop a new anti-bullying campaign, the Australian Broadcasting Company News reported.  In the U.S., the Cyberbullying Research Center issued a new research summary, Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Sexual Orientation, that examines the existing research, as well as high-profile incidents involving cyberbullying based on sexual orientation.  And the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian reported that as schools have added new technologies, cyberbullying has increased. 

Other News
Australia’s largest ISP, Telstra, indicated it was close to implementing the voluntary filtering of child pornography sites for its customers, ZDNET reports.  The move drew criticism from Australian civil liberties groups. 

In the United Kingdom, the International Association for the Study of Obesity issued a new report titled A junk‐free childhood: Responsible standards for marketing foods and beverages to children.  The report criticized online games and social media sites for promoting ‘junk foods’ to children.

 Compiled by David Burt.