U.S. reps introduce comprehensive internet safety bill

For the majority of people, their daily interactions with the internet aren't especially noteworthy. In fact, they may do nothing more exciting during the course of a typical day than read the news, check social media accounts, make some purchases or send out emails.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Indeed, ask anyone who has had their email account hacked, their credit card number stolen or their personal files leaked onto social media about their experience, and they'll likely describe a day that was anything but mundane.

While there are laws in place to protect individuals against cybercrime, experts indicate that enforcement can be sporadic and punishment inconsistent.

In light of this reality, three members of Congress -- Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Mark Meehan (R-PA) -- are co-sponsoring a measure known as the Online Safety Modernization Act, which is designed to combat the recent spike in cybercrime.

Specifically, the bill is comprised of six sections, all of which tackle "cybercrimes against individuals." Three of these sections call for the following online acts to be outlawed:

  • Swatting: The act of falsely reporting a serious crime in order to get a police SWAT team dispatched to an unsuspecting victim's home
  • Sextortion: The act of securing graphic photos and/or videos of a victim and threatening to release them to the internet unless more sexual imagery is provided
  • Doxxing: The act of releasing personal information about a person online in order to cause them some manner of harm

In addition to making these acts federal offenses, the bill would also establish a grant program with $20 million in funding, the entirety of which would be allocated to local and state law enforcement to fund training and other efforts to combat cyber crime against individuals.

The bill also calls for $4 million to be earmarked for the formation of a National Resource Center on Cybercrime Against Individuals, and the U.S. Attorney General to both publish an annual report on cybercrime and ensure that a set amount of DOJ personnel are focused solely on this area.

It remains to be seen whether the Online Safety Modernization Act will gain the necessary traction on Capitol Hill. However, given its bipartisan sponsorship, and endorsements from Facebook and law enforcement groups, there's a good chance it advances.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you or under investigation or have been charged with any manner of cyber crime, it's imperative to consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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