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1 family hopes new law to protect children online prevents tragedies like theirs

New law aims to combat online predators
New law aims to combat online predators seeking to exploit children 04:15

A new law aims to strengthen reporting requirements for technology companies to combat online predators seeking to exploit children. One dad told CBS News that he hopes the law will save children like his son, who died by suicide after becoming ensnared in a "sextortion" scheme when he was 17 years old. 

John Demay said that what started as a seemingly innocuous encounter on Instagram quickly turned deadly for his teenage son Jordan. Demay said that his son was solicited by a man, posing as a woman, who asked him to send compromising photos. Jordan did so, and then the scammer ordered him to pay up — threatening to release the images otherwise. 

"Ultimately it was about money at that point. and I believe they started off around a thousand dollars," Demay said. "They were building collages with his picture and making him believe they were sending it out." 

"He told them he was going to kill himself, and the perpetrator said 'Good, you better do it fast or we're going to make you do it,'" Demay continued. "And then at 3:45, Jordan shot himself in his bedroom." 

John Demay's son Jordan. CBS Saturday Morning

Jordan's family was distraught, and the horror only compounded when they realized what he had been going through. Demay said they had "no idea what happened" on social media.

"You know, there was no signs. There was no depression, there was nothing," Demay said. 

The "Report Act," signed into law by President Joe Biden last month, is meant to help kids like Jordan. The law requires social media companies to report crimes involving child sex trafficking, grooming or enticement to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's cyber tip line. The law also increases penalties for those who fail to flag such content. 

Last year, the Center received more than 36 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation to its cyber tipline.

The legislation was sponsored by Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff and Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn. The internet has been "the Wild West," Blackburn said, especially for children and other vulnerable users. 

"You cannot sell alcohol to children. You can't sell them a pornographic magazine. You can't take them to a strip show," Blackburn said. "If you did, law enforcement would come in and they would padlock your business, they would haul you down to the police station, they would book you and you would be fined. But there's been nothing in the virtual space." 

Undercover sting operation renews attention of need to protect kids on social media 02:54

The law is the first to be enacted since a blockbuster Senate hearing earlier in 2024. The hearing focused on online child exploitation. At the time, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg issued a rare apology to families who were in the crowd. Demay was one of those watching. The new law, he believes, is the first step towards creating a safer internet. 

"We have to do something. We have to be comfortable with baby steps if that's what it's going to take but I do find some peace in that," Demay said. 

Ossoff said that he takes online exploitation seriously, and plans to do more to make cyberspace safer for vulnerable users. 

"Look, I've got a two year old baby girl at home and it is every parent's worst nightmare," Ossoff said. "We've got to improve the safety. We have to hold the tech companies accountable to make them safe for children." 

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