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MySpace asked to turn over names of registered sex offenders

Eight attorneys general say MySpace has duty to get predators off its site

By Linda Rosencrance
May 15, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Attorneys general from eight states want MySpace to turn over the names of potentially thousands of registered sex offenders who may be members of its popular social networking site.

In a May 14 letter to MySpace, the attorneys general from Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania said they are "gravely concerned" that sexual predators are using the Web site to lure children to meet them offline. They asked MySpace to tell them how many registered sex offenders they've identified on the site and what the company is doing to remove them.

The officials also want to know what MySpace has done to alert its users who have communicated with the sex offenders as well as what the company has done to alert law enforcement. They gave MySpace until May 29 to respond. The attorneys general said they believe that data from Sentinel Tech Holdings, a company working with MySpace to identify sex offenders, indicates that thousands of sex offenders are MySpace members.

"MySpace is a treasure-trove of potential victims for child predators," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. "Sex offenders have no business being on this site, and we believe MySpace has a responsibility to get them off the site."

Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal are heading a group of attorneys general who have been after MySpace to better protect children from sexual predators and inappropriate content, according to the statement.

"We agree with the attorneys general that keeping bad people out of good places on the Internet is a challenge and a priority," said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, in a statement e-mailed to Computerworld.

Nigam said MySpace launched software in early May that identifies and removes known sex offenders from the site. "We are in the initial stages of cross-referencing our membership against Sentinel's registered sex offender database and removing any confirmed matches," Nigam said.

"Mandatory sex offender e-mail registration legislation -- which is now being considered at the federal level and in several states, and is supported by leading experts -- would significantly expedite this process and help keep sex offenders off our sites," Nigam said.

In 2006, the news media reported almost 100 criminal incidents across the country involving adults who used MySpace to meet children, the statement from the attorneys general said. One of those cases involved a former North Carolina sheriff's deputy who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006 for molesting a 15-year-old boy from Cary, N.C., whom he met on MySpace.

North Carolina, Connecticut and other states are working on legislation that would require social networking sites including MySpace to get parents' permission before allowing children to join, the statement said. Cooper is also advocating legislation that would make it a felony for convicted sex offenders to join social networking sites that have children as members.

Read more about Networking in Computerworld's Networking Topic Center.



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