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Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell wants to remove the anonymity of the Internet from sex offenders

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell is seeking legislation requiring convicted sex offenders to register their online identities with the state’s recently revamped Sex Offender Registry. Sex offenders will have to identify their email addresses, instant messaging and chat room screen names so that sites such as MySpace can more easily block access of predators.

This decision comes after a discussion in Attorney General Bob McDonnell’s Youth Internet Safety Task Force. A member who represents MySpace.com told the group about the Web site’s initiative seeking federal legislation that would require convicted sex offenders to register all of their email addresses in a national sex offender database. The group instantly supported the idea but added the additional requirement of instant messaging identities.

Speaking about the proposed legislation, Attorney General McDonnell noted, “We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century it is just as critical that they register any email addresses or IM screen names. This has become readily apparent during the meetings of our Youth Internet Safety Task Force, and it is time we take this step. MySpace.com has led the way in coming up with this proactive solution, and Virginia will take the lead in being the first to propose the measure on a state level. I hope other social networking sites will join MySpace.com in implementing the software necessary to accomplish this goal.”

MySpace last week announced a technology that will be able to search existing state and federal databases to identify and delete the profiles of registered sex offenders. Such an effort to identify sex offenders on MySpace was first reported early October when Kevin Poulsen used a Perl script to cross reference MySpace users with state databases.

By creating a database of email addresses and IM names, and allowing social networking sites such as MySpace.com to access that database, law enforcement will be able to help such sites monitor users. When MySpace.com, or any other social networking site, comes across the email address or IM name of a registered sex offender they will now have the ability to both delete and/or block these individuals from accessing their site. 

“It is critical that states take this step as the vast majority of prosecutions and convictions for sex offenders take place at the state level,” McDonnell continued to emphasize. “This is not a foolproof approach, as we all fully realize how easy it is to get new email addresses. But by requiring registration, and by making the penalties for failure to register the same as those for failure to register physical and mailing addresses, we will take another positive step towards protecting children online.”



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RE: smoke and mirrors
By Cogman on 12/13/2006 9:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
I agree completly, What if they get an email account from an Idaho company. Then they are not sending out emails from Virginia just broadcasting data to Idahos servers that make it into an email. This is a worthless law that they can't enforce. They would have to take away every sex offenders computer and give them limited access to Imasexoffender.com and even then thats not to hard to get around if you have the hardware at your home (or pcworld nearby)


RE: smoke and mirrors
By masteraleph on 12/13/2006 10:02:38 AM , Rating: 3
Ahh, but if you later get caught for another sex offense and you didn't register, they can use this law to show that you were trying to hide your identity and that you are thereby more dangerous than an average repeat offender.


RE: smoke and mirrors
By Cogman on 12/13/2006 10:12:22 AM , Rating: 2
so you register and never use it, or ocasionally use it. Safe.


RE: smoke and mirrors
By peternelson on 12/13/2006 11:25:29 AM , Rating: 2
I have no problem with asking offenders to REGISTER their IM, email, screen names.

What I DO have a problem with is an automatic blocking of all such details on various systems like myspace.

If someone using that identity is found OFFENDING then you can throw the book at them, but until that, you should not ban it.

This is because if you block myspace, where do you stop? eg uploading to youtube, eg posting on anandtech forums, eg sending emails?

You will deprive even people with relatively minor offences from the commonly accepted benefits of using the internet. If someone asks you "what's your msn" (or similar ubiquitous messaging system like AOL, yahoo), and you cannot give them it, or set up an account, that is pretty much effectively making them wear a sign around their neck saying I'm a convicted sex offender for the rest of my life. It could also lead to vigilante attacks.

Further this makes no distinction between minor things (like possessing not buying pornography) versus violent rape and murder. In the latter cases there is probably some merit in keeping people off myspace, but doing it automatically regardless of offence is problematic. In UK there is specific offence of "grooming" a young person, and if the offender was monitored doing any such activity then action should certainly be taken immediately.

For this reason I support the registering of online names, but not blanket blocking of those accounts.

eg the ability to have an account on ebay could be a legitimate means of income (even though it could be used as a means to meet victims).

Also regarding convicted hackers given sentences like you can't use a computer for the next 5 years. That is pretty dumb. The restriction should be against doing naughty things with computers, because just using them is an important part of daily life eg home banking.


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