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The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.

“The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible,” said Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries.

Companies can set the software to take many defensive steps automatically, including temporarily silencing those who are breaking rules or banning them permanently.Even those companies with state-of-the-art defenses spend far more time trying to stop online bullying and attempts to sneak profanity past automatic word filters than they do fending off sex predators.Still, as the Skout case showed, there are several recent trends that have heightened the concerns of child-safety experts: the rise of smartphones, which are harder for parents to monitor; location-oriented services, which are the darling of Net companies seeking more ad revenue from local businesses; and the rapid proliferation in phone and tablet apps, which don’t always make clear what data they are using and distributing.While many top sites catering to young children are quite vigilant, the same can’t be said for the burgeoning array of online options for the 13- to 18-year-old set.“There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,” said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography.

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