For Immediate Release - February 24, 2010

Statement of Attorney General Coakley on House Passage of Bill to Protect Children From Online Predators

Bill adds electronic communications to definition of harmful material

BOSTON - Calling it an "important step to better protect our children," Attorney General Martha Coakley commended House legislators for passing a bi-partisan amendment by House Judiciary Chairman Eugene O'Flaherty and Minority Leader Brad Jones that will update the law regarding dissemination of harmful material to minors to include various types of electronic communications. AG Coakley's office worked with Chairman O'Flaherty to draft and file a bill addressing this issue earlier this month following a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision ruling that electronic communications such as instant messages are not covered under the state's criminal prohibition on the dissemination of harmful material to minors.

Statement from Attorney General Martha Coakley:

"As our kids continue to use the Internet and other new technologies to communicate with each other, we must update our laws to keep up with that changing technology and better protect our children from predators who seek to harm them. Our legal team in the Cyber Crime Division worked with Chairman O'Flaherty to identify the changes that needed to be made to our criminal statutes and to draft this bill. We commend the House for passing this important legislation and are hopeful that this bill will continue to move forward to help assure that we have the most advanced tools to protect our children from sexual predators on the Internet."

The legislation would amend Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272, Section 31, which provides the definition of what "matter" is considered harmful to minors, and therefore is illegal to disseminate to minors under the dissemination statute, General Laws Chapter 272, Section 28. Currently, the definition includes:

"any handwritten or printed material, visual representation, live performance or sound recording including but not limited to, books, magazines, motion picture films, pamphlets, phonographic records, pictures, photographs, figures, statues, plays, dances."

The legislation updates that definition by adding electronic communications, specifically:

"any electronic communication including but not limited to any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electronic or photo-optical system."