In the State of Florida, certain types of behaviors on the computer are unlawful, and those who engage in those behaviors may be considered online predators. An online predator is defined as a person who uses the Internet to seek out vulnerable children and adolescents for sexual exploitation or for other abusive purposes. Online predators may be considered sex offenders under Florida and federal law if they make, or attempt to make, inappropriate contact with a minor.
An example of an online predator may include a 40-year-old man who pretends to be a young teen in chat rooms online to entice young girls to exchange sexually focused messages; to entice young girls to send sexually suggestive or sexually explicit photographs; or to entice young girls to meet them in person for sexual purposes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation takes the investigation of online predators seriously. The FBI has an estimated 30 undercover operations at any one time attempting to identify and prosecute online prosecutors.
In total, more than 200 FBI agents work full-time on catching online predators in the United States. Since 1993, when the Innocent Images National Initiative was born after the computer-assisted kidnapping of an 11-year-old, the FBI has opened more than 20,200 investigations and arrested close to 10,000 suspects for using the Internet to sexually exploit children. The Baltimore kidnapping is the first recorded instance of a computer being used to target a child.
Florida also has a number of laws aimed at prohibiting online misconduct towards children and punishing online predators. Examples include luring or enticing a child, as defined by Florida Statute 787.025(2)(c).
Those accused of online sex crimes could be prosecuted under federal or state law. A convicted individual will generally be required to register as a sex offender. Use of computers could be restricted or forbidden as a condition of probation following conviction for any offense in which children were targeted online.