2nd UPDATE: 3,500 NY Sex Offenders Taken Off Networking Sites

December 01, 2009: 04:36 PM ET

(Updates with comments from Connecticut attorney general.)

By Chad Bray

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Social-networking Web sites Facebook and MySpace have identified and disabled accounts used by more than 3,500 registered sex offenders in New York State using a law passed last year that requires sex offenders to register their emails and online aliases with the state, New York Attorney GeneralAndrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

At a press conference, Cuomo said Facebook has disabled accounts held by 2,782 registered sex offenders and News Corp.’s MySpace has disabled accounts linked to 1,796 registered sex offenders. Some of the sex offenders were on both Web sites.

Cuomo said many of the offenders were violating their parole by being on social-networking sites and are prohibited from interacting with young people.

“Whether it’s a playground on the street corner or a playground in cyberspace, it doesn’t matter,” Cuomo said.

Under the state’s Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act passed last year, registered sex offenders are required to register their emails and other online identifiers with the state.

The law sets 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 they are among the highest-level offenders.

Cuomo said Facebook and MySpace are the online social-networking sites who have sought access to the information compiled under the e-Stop law.

His office is sending letters to 17 other social-networking sites encouraging them to take advantage of the data gathered under the law, including classmates.com and Friendster, Cuomo said.

A spokesman for United Online Inc. (UNTD), which operates classmates.com, didn’t immediately have a comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Friendster didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s assistant general counsel, said the Web site voluntarily adopted a policy to not allow registered sex offenders on the site. He called New York’s law the model for other states and the nation.

In a statement, 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.”

Amid concerns from regulators, Facebook and MySpace have adopted new procedures to protect children from sexual predators in recent years. Protecting minors from inappropriate content and sexual predators on social-networking sites has been an important issue for attorneys general across the U.S. in recent years.

On Tuesday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said a multi-state task force of attorneys general examining how to protect minors on social- networking sites is expected to announce additional actions in the near future.

Blumenthal declined to provide specifics, but said the task force has been preparing steps similar to what Cuomo announced Tuesday. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and Blumenthal are co-chairmen of the task force.

The attorney general said Connecticut, which has a law similar to New York’s, also is going to be announcing measures in connection with its statute in the near future.

In February, Cooper and Blumenthal announced MySpace, in response to a subpoena, had identified 90,000 registered sex offenders who attempted to create accounts on its Web site–40,000 more than previously reported.

At the time, MySpace said the profiles were identified, removed and blocked over a two-year period. The Web site said that it was providing data about the offenders to any law enforcement agency that requested such data.

News Corp. (NWSA, NWS.AU) owns Dow Jones, the publisher of this newswire.

-By Chad Bray, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-227-2017; chad.bray@dowjones.com

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