2009-12-04 / Top Stories

Sex Offenders Booted From FaceBook, MySpace

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that more than 3,500 registered New York state sex offenders, including 186 from Queens, have been purged from so - cial networking sites Facebook and MySpace in the first database sweep since the state's new Electro nic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act ("e-STOP") went into effect.

At the same time, many other social networking sites remain slow at adopting available new protections against sexual predators on - line, and Cuomo's office today sent letters urging them to take action now to similarly purge sex offenders from their sites.

Under the new e-STOP law, which was authored by Cuomo, Facebook was able to identify and disable accounts linked to 2,782 registered New York sex offenders, and My - Space was able to identify and disable accounts linked to 1,796 sex offenders. Some registered sex offenders were linked to accounts on both sites, leaving a total of 3,533 individuals purged from Facebook and/or MySpace during the sweep. New York State has more than 8,100 sex offenders who have registered emails with the state. That means over 43 percent of those sex offenders have identified accounts linked to Facebook and/or MySpace.

Information about the accounts is now being shared with law enforcement authorities. To date, Facebook and MySpace are the only social networking sites that have sought access to the state's new registry of sex offenders' Internet information made available through e-STOP.

Under e-STOP - the nation's most comprehensive law to enhance protections from sexual predators on the Internet - many sexual predators are banned outright from using social networking sites on the Internet 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. That information is then made available to social networking sites so they can purge potential predators from their online worlds.

"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 sites to do their part to keep others from being senselessly victimized."

e-STOP, which went into effect last year, was the first law of its kind requiring convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and other online identifiers with the New York State Sex Offender Registry, among other conditions. The law:

• Requires that sex offenders register all of their Internet accounts and Internet identifiers (e-mail addresses and designations used for chat, instant messaging, social networking, or other similar Internet communication) with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

• Authorizes the Division of Crim -

inal Justice Services to release state sex offender Internet identifiers to social networking sites and certain other online services, which may be used to prescreen or remove sex offenders from using the site's services and notify law enforcement authorities and other government officials of potential violations of law and threats to public safety.

• Requires, as a condition of probation or parole, mandatory restrictions on a sex offender's access to the Internet where the offender's victim was a minor, the Internet was used to commit the offense, or the offender was designated a level 3 (highest level) offender. Such offenders would be banned from accessing social networking websites, accessing pornographic materials, communicating with anyone for the purpose of promoting sexual relations with a minor, and communicating, in most circumstances, with anyone under the age of 18.

Ted Ullyot, Vice President and General Counsel at Facebook, said, "Nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of our users, and we are proud to be working with Attorney General Cuomo to make the Internet safer for everyone, especially children. Ensuring online safety requires cooperation between industry, policymakers, parents, and teachers. With Attorney General Cuomo's leadership, New York has become a model for this type of partnership - by making available the nation's most complete, most useful, and most accessible data to help the effort to keep registered sex offenders off social networking sites. Facebook will continue to look for innovative approaches, both internally and in cooperation with law enforcement, to screen, block, and help prosecute anyone who would attempt to misuse our service to harm others."

MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said, "We applaud and support Attorney General Cuomo's leadership in his ground breaking use of e-STOP to make the Internet a safer place. MySpace utilized e-STOP to complement technology we had already put in place to remove registered sex offenders from our community as part of a comprehensive approach to protecting Internet users from predators. We look forward to working with Attorney General Cuomo to encourage other sites to follow our lead in protecting teens online."

Cuomo's office and DCJS are working with other law enforcement agencies, including state parole and probation officials, in taking appropriate action against offenders who violate their terms and conditions of release by accessing the Internet in prohibited ways.According to DCJS, New York State has more than 29,000 registered sex offenders: 11,065 are level 1 registered offenders (lowest risk of repeat offense); 10,604 are level 2 registered offenders (moderate risk of repeat offense); 7,417 are level 3 registered sex offenders (high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists). There are a total of approximately 627,000 registered sex offenders in the United States.

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