UCC justice advocates support Internet Abuse Act
Written by Wire Reports and Gregg Brekke
February 3, 2012
United Church of Christ justice advocates have joined with
the National Council of Churches and a growing list of religious and advocacy
organizations calling for the tightening of laws to prevent Internet stalking.
One effort to accomplish that, the organizations said in a
letter sent to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), is the Internet Abuse
Act of 2011 introduced by Blumenthal late last year.
"With the Internet and social networking we are in
new and uncharted territory with regard to violence prevention –
cyber-intimidation and abuse goes beyond the bounds of free expression and
needs to be identified as such," said Sandy Sorenson, director of the
UCC's Washington, D.C., office.
"This legislation is important because it provides
needed guidelines to prosecutors who are attempting to successfully charge
criminals who use the Internet as a means of stalking, sexual and domestic
abuse," said Loey Powell, the UCC's executive for administration and
Noting the difficulty of delineating what is criminal or
unacceptable in term of Internet use, Powell is hopeful the new legislation
will begin to provide those guidelines. "The Internet Abuse Act will help
shape federal law in appropriate ways and support those victimized by sexual or
Blumenthal said he introduced the legislation as a
companion to a bill to renew the Violence
Against Women Act (VAWA) by preventing use of the Internet to stalk
women as targets of sexual assault.
According to Blumenthal, the act is intended to "empower law enforcement and protect
victims from criminals who use the Internet to intimidate, threaten, or injure
In the letter sent to Blumenthal, advocacy organizations
said there are many gaps in existing law.
"While cases where a criminal directly stalks,
assaults, or abuses a victim can generally be reached under current law, it can
be more difficult for prosecutors to make cases against perpetrators who
indirectly abuse victims by using the Internet to induce third party
individuals into engaging in such conduct."
law criminalizes anonymous, harassing communications directed at a specific
victim but does not currently cover harassing communications that may not be
directly received by a victim. This Internet Abuse Act would fill this
The bill also
protects free speech by preventing prosecutions based solely on a
communications that merely "annoy" a recipient.
The text of the bill and the endorsed letter are available