AUSTIN (KXAN) – Social media has allowed people to communicate like never before but some of those conversations cross the line of what’s right and what’s legal.
“With all the great advances in technology in social media there is a dark side. People exploit that good for bad reasons,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R- Texas, at a workshop event in Facebook’s downtown Austin office.
Sen. John Cornyn co-authored an update to the country’s cyber-tipline with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, in December. Wednesday, Cornyn joined Facebook, other tech-companies, law enforcement, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to explain the new law.
“Most people don’t engage in this kind of behavior. So it’s really removing this behavior from our platforms so it is a safe place for children,” said Facebook’s Antigone Davis.
Social media companies are now better protected and encouraged if they report tips that could show predator grooming a child: like a picture of a child taking a bath.
“What the technology companies do is report information, which in and of itself might not be a crime,” said Sen. Cornyn, R-Texas, “But maybe a lead that would cause law enforcement to go to a court and get a search warrant.”
Cornyn said he’ll take feedback back to Washington and try to minimize unexpected consequences of the new law during next session of Congress.
Here’s a closer look at how the cyber tipline works. First, someone reports suspected child exploitation. From there a cyber tipline report is submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Then the agency prioritizes the report by apparent harm to the child. From there, staff looks into the report using internal databases and public records. Once that information is collected they determine a possible location for the child and whether or not he or she is in danger. Then they let federal, state, or local law enforcement know about the child in danger. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says its staff work to provide that information within hours of getting a complaint.
These incidents happen everyday. Austin police Wednesday announced they’re look for a 30-year-old man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl he met on Facebook while posing as a teenage boy. Edwin Mejia-Melgar is charged with sexual assault of a child. The victim told police she met him online.
She says he forced her to have sex with him during spring break that was in March of 2017. Then again in June, when the victim says she was home alone and he came to her house and sexually assaulted her. Police tell us Meijia-melgar is not in custody.