Senate Bill Cracks Down on Staged Violence on the Internet
My colleagues and I in the Senate have passed legislation designed to crack down on the alarming trend of recording criminal acts of violence with the intent of distributing them on the Internet for entertainment purposes. The legislation comes in response to an increasing number of violent attacks orchestrated and recorded by individuals who want to post the videos on Internet sharing sites, such as YouTube.com and MySpace.com. It is unimaginable to think that anyone would willfully look to physically attack another individual with the expressed intent of videotaping the act and placing it on the Internet for others to watch as if it were some form of legitimate entertainment. The sadistic thought process seems to focus on the recording and Internet posting of the violent act itself. By passing this legislation, we are letting these individuals know that this brutal trend affecting our children and our homeless will not be tolerated. This bill would create the new crime of unlawful violent recording when a person commits an assault while knowingly capturing the crime with a recording device. In addition, a person who persuades others to commit crimes against each other for the purpose of recording, viewing, or broadcasting the crime would be guilty of conspiracy in the fourth degree, a class E felony. Both crimes would allow additional penalties of one and a half to four years in prison. Earlier this year, a group of teenage girls in central Florida recorded the brutal beating of a sixteen-year-old girl and posted in on You Tube, where it was widely viewed. Just last month, in an incident thought to be inspired by the attack in Florida, a group of middle school girls in southern Indiana videotaped the beating of a twelve-year-old classmate and also posted it on the Internet. Similarly, attacks against the homeless are gaining notoriety on video sharing sites. A group of high-school students recently went on a crime spree, recording violent attacks against the homeless -- including throwing smoke bombs at and setting fire to homeless individuals -- with the intent to become “famous” on the internet. Similar videos can be found on sites such as MySpace.com, entitled “Bum Hunter”, where homeless people are dragged from alleys as they sleep to be assaulted and degraded, modeled after the television show “Crocodile Hunter.” Criminologists call these wild sprees “sport killings,” -- middle-class teens, with no criminal records who assault the homeless with bats, golf clubs and paintball guns for fun. Teens sometimes tape themselves in the act, and have said they were inspired by "Bumfights," a video series created in 2002 and sold on the Web that features homeless people pummeling each other for the promise of a few bucks or some alcohol. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, attacks against homeless individuals are at the highest level in almost a decade. In 2006, there were 122 attacks and 20 murders of homeless people. In addition, the Senate approved related legislation to ensure students, parents and teachers have the resources they need to keep children safe while using the Internet. The bill (S.7051) directs the State Education Commissioner to work with the State Police, the New York State Office for Technology, and other appropriate resources to develop software and a handbook of guidelines concerning safe and responsible use of the Internet. The materials will be provided to students in grades three through twelve, as well as their parents or legal guardians.