2008-05-16 / Top Stories

Paterson Signs Child Protection Law

Governor David A. Paterson was joined on Wednesday by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco as he signed legislation designed to protect children who access social networking sites from convicted sex offenders.

"New York State must do everything it can to protect our children from sexual predators," said Governor Paterson. "Many of these individuals are able to prowl the Internet with anonymity, and this legislation will help us to identify these individuals and restrict their access to web sites used by children. I urge social networking site providers to take advantage of the new information in the Sex Offender Registry in order to prevent offenders from accessing their web sites, making the Internet safer for children."

Attorney General Cuomo said; "I applaud Governor Paterson for signing e-STOP into law and giving New York the nation's most comprehensive protection against sexual predators on the Internet. The Internet has proven a useful tool for sex offenders to prey on the innocent, especially children, and I proposed the law because it is imperative that protections keep up with the rapid changes in technology. e-STOP is a powerful tool and has the potential to save lives, and I am grateful this state is setting an example and leading the nation with this groundbreaking law. I was proud to work with Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver and all of my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to propose and pass this important new law."

Under New York State's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) maintains a computer registry of the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders, and that information is made available to the public. Unfortunately, sex offenders remain free to create screen names and access social networking sites used by children, and our laws do not effectively prevent that use.

The Electronic Security and Target- ing of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) seeks to address that problem by: (1) requiring convicted sex offenders to register their Internet screen names with the Sex Offender Registry; (2) allowing social networking web sites to obtain those screen names in order to prohibit those account holders from accessing web sites on which they could contact children; and (3) mandating that dangerous convicted sex offenders who are serving a term of probation, conditional discharge or parole be prohibited from using the Internet to contact children.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said; "The Internet and popular social networking sites are the playground of choice for many young people, and for sexual predators. This new law will ensure greater protections for our kids, more control for parents and improved tools for law enforcement to better police the Internet and protect people from being victimized. I commend Attorney General Cuomo and Senator Dean Skelos for their hard work on this issue, and thank Governor Paterson for signing this important bill into law."

Assembly Speaker Silver said; "Nothing is more important than protecting our children. As a young parent, protecting my children seemed as simple as locking doors and windows, knowing where they were at all times and reminding them not to talk to strangers. Now the information superhighway - through vehicles such as My Space, Facebook and Instant Messaging - exposes our children to a world where danger and evil lurk behind the relative anonymity granted its users. Imposing reasonable and appropriate Internet restrictions on all convicted sex offenders required to register under Megan's law will help make the Internet safer for everyone."

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos said; "The Internet has become a playground for sexual predators. Since its enactment, we've continually worked to strengthen Megan's Law and adapt it to changing technology. The new e-STOP law is an important step that will help prevent dangerous sex offenders from hiding behind a veil of anonymity and preying upon our children online. I want to thank Attorney General Cuomo for partnering with the Legislature to pass this legislation and Governor Paterson for signing it into law."

Assembly member Joseph Lentol said; "It is an interesting time to be in criminal law because there are so many new ways crimes can be perpetrated. The Internet has created avenues that just didn't exist ten years ago. This legislation sets up procedures to keep track of individuals with histories that too often repeat themselves in extremely devastating ways. It allows everyone to remain vigilant, watchful, educated and united in the effort to stop sexual predators. We know that is what works."

Senate Minority Leader Smith said; "I would like to commend my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly for their forthright commitment to protect our children. This bill is a monumental feat. Sexual predators have lured thousands of young children into unsafe situations through a web community, which has not been sufficiently policed in the past. Internet administrators will now be equipped with a tool that will allow them to prevent convicted sex offenders from accessing a forum that hosts billions of users at any given time. This bill moves us a step further in our quest to protect all New Yorkers, especially those that need it most - our children."

Assembly Minority Leader Tedisco said; "Today's enactment of e-STOP into law means children will be safer and more secure from sexual predators who misuse the Internet. I credit Governor David Paterson, Attorney General Cuomo and my legislative colleagues for helping make this achievement a reality. If politics is the art of making the impossible possible, then this same type of bi-partisan cooperation should be marshaled for the remainder of this legislative session, as we deliberate and discuss other critical public safety issues affecting the New Yorkers we have the honor of representing."

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said; "The Internet is a wonderful tool that offers young people a world of information and it's a fun way to communicate with their friends. Unfortunately, it can also be used by individuals who seek to develop 'cyberrelationships' with children in order to victimize them - some of whom may be registered sex offenders. The e- STOP law is a significant step towards protecting children online. We're grateful to Governor Paterson, Attorney

General Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature for their efforts in enacting this law."

Justin Wright, AeA's northeast regional policy director, said; "AeA applauds Governor Paterson for signing this landmark child safety legislation into law. e-STOP will provide law enforcement and industry officials with the tools necessary to remove convicted sexual predators from social networking sites so that all users can have a safe online experience. AeAand its member companies care deeply about having a safe online environment for all users - especially children. We are proud to have been a part of this partnership between government and industry that came together to tackle this challenging issue."

As a result of e-STOP, DCJS today will begin sending out approximately 25,000 letters to sex offenders who are in the Sex Offender Registry advising them that they must register any Internet and email accounts used for purposes of online chatting, instant messaging or social networking. DCJS will advise offenders that if they change their email address or create a new online profile, they must notify the state within 10 days - and failure to comply with the registration requirements is a felony.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Dean Skelos and by Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, takes effect immediately, and the new requirements relating to registering Internet screen names apply to all sex offenders who currently are registered or who must register in the future.

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