Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sex Offenders Kicked Off Social Networking Sites

Facebook, MySpace Disable Offenders’ Accounts

More than 3,500 registered sex offenders throughout the state have been kicked off online social networking sites Facebook and MySpace in the first database sweep conducted since a new state law went into effect, announced Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Under the new Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), which went into effect last year, registered sex offenders are forced to register their e-mail addresses with the state. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace can now access that information to prevent sex offenders from maintaining accounts.

Under the first database sweep since the law went into effect, Facebook was able to identify and disable accounts linked to 2,782 sex offenders across the state, while MySpace recently disabled 1,796such accounts. Since some sex offenders had accounts with both sites, the number of individuals purged during the sweep stands at 3,533.

In all, there are more than 8,100 sex offenders who have registered e-mail addresses with the state. That means more than 43 percent of those sex offenders using e-mail have accounts registered with Facebook and MySpace, which are both popular with teenagers. Information about the accounts is now being shared with law enforcement authorities.

While Facebook and MySpace are taking part in the initiative to prevent sex offenders from soliciting new targets through social networking sites, others “remain slow at adopting available new protections against sexual predators online,” the attorney general noted in a press release. In response, Cuomo’s office has sent letters to other sites urging them to take action now to prevent offenders from maintaining accounts.

“We created e-STOP to help put an end to sexual predators using the Internet as a tool to prey on the innocent,” said Cuomo. “Facebook and MySpace are successfully using e-STOP to help make the Internet safer, and it’s time for all social networking to do their part to keep others from being senselessly victimized.”

Under e-STOP, the nation’s more comprehensive law to enhance protections from sexual predators on the Internet, many offenders are banned outright from using social networking sites while on probation or parole. Also, convicted sex offenders must register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names and other Internet identifiers with the state, which shares the information with social networking sites so they can purge offenders from their online worlds.

Sex offenders recently purged from Facebook and MySpace come from all regions throughout the state. Locally, 186 of the removed offenders live in Queens, 101 in Nassau County, 177 in Brooklyn, 143 in the Bronx and 118 in Manhattan.

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