Wednesday, July 25, 2007

MySpace Finds Profiles of 29,000 Sex Offenders

MySpace finds 29K sex offenders


RALEIGH (AP) — has found more than 29,000 registered sex
offenders with profiles on the popular social networking Web site — more
than four times the number cited by the company two months ago, North
Carolina officials said Tuesday.

North Carolina's Roy Cooper is one of several attorneys general who recently
demanded the News Corp.-owned Web site provide data on how many registered
sex offenders were using the popular social networking site, along with
information about where they live.

After initially withholding the information, citing federal privacy laws,
MySpace began sharing the information in May after the states filed formal
legal requests.

At the time, MySpace said it had already used a database it helped create to
remove about 7,000 profiles of sex offenders, out of a total of about 180
million profiles on the site.

Two MySpace spokeswomen did not immediately return calls seeking comment

The site, which is the largest of its kind, allows users to create personal
profiles with pictures, music and text. Users can allow their profiles to be
viewed publicly, browse profiles and send messages to each other. They also
can block undesired contact from other individuals, or make their entire
profile accessible only to their designated "friends" using MySpace.

Cooper is pushing for a state law that would require children to receive
parental permission before creating social networking profiles, and require
the Web sites to enact procedures for verifying the parents' identity and

Cooper is working with top law enforcement officials in other states in
pressuring MySpace to use age and identity verification methods voluntarily.
Based on media reports, Cooper's office found more than 100 criminal
incidents this year of adults using MySpace to prey or attempt to prey on

Most recently, a Virginia man pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping and
soliciting a child by computer, charges related to a sexual relationship
with a 14-year-old North Carolina girl he met on MySpace, according to

"All we're doing is giving parents the right to make a choice whether their
children can go online," Cooper told a state House committee, which is
considering a bill Cooper said will lead to "fewer children at risk, because
there will be fewer children on those Web sites."

Advocates for Internet-based industries and privacy issues testified against
those restrictions, saying they would establish broad parental verification
standards that would be found unconstitutional in court because it prohibits
free speech or impedes interstate commerce.

The plan also isn't foolproof, they said, because information can be
fabricated by the computer user or a child can type in a parent's

The parental verification requirement "makes promises to consumers that
cannot be kept. It is dangerous language," said Emily Hackett, executive
director of the Washington-based Internet Alliance, whose clients include
AOL, Yahoo and VeriSign. "There is no way to eyeball a user."

Sen. Walter Dalton, a primary sponsor of the bill, scoffed at the testimony.

"I don't buy any of those arguments I just heard," said Dalton,
D-Rutherford, adding that he and Cooper's office believed the age
verification requirements could withstand judicial scrutiny.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, would require a social networking
Web site to compare information provided by a parent with commercial
databases containing public records or other government-issued

The sites also could be in compliance if they required a parent to use a
valid credit card or fill out a printed form, then confirm with parents that
permission had been granted.

Registered sex offenders who access the sites would face felony charges.

The bill, which was sent to a subcommittee for more consideration, may not
stop all sexual predators from getting on social networking sites, but it
addresses a problem that shouldn't be ignored, Dalton said.

"There is obviously a compelling state interest to protect our children from
sexual predators," he said.


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