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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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