The social networking Web site MySpace has turned over names and other information about 68 convicted sex offenders from Kentucky that the company identified on its Web site.
The information about registered sex offenders was recently turned over to the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and is being shared with law enforcement, including the Kentucky Bureau of Investigation, Kentucky State Police and the Department of Corrections. The data can be used to look for potential parole violations by offenders who may have been barred from using a computer or contacting minors.
In April, 2007 a press conference was held in the Capitol Rotunda to highlight Kentucky’s new law requiring the state’s 6,245 registered sex offenders to register their “electronic mail addresses and any instant messaging, chat or other Internet communication name identities” with the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry. The law was created by SB 65 sponsored by Sen. Ray Jones II of Pikeville. The new law allows online companies, including social networking sites, to cross-check their members against the KSP Sex Offender Registry. Chief Security Officer for MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam of California, spoke at the press conference regarding the importance of partnering with states in enforcing restrictions for sex offenders.
Following a letter sent by state attorneys general to MySpace on May 14 demanding that the company turn over information about sex offenders, MySpace confirmed that Sentinel Tech Holdings has already identified thousands of registered sex offenders as members of the popular social networking site. MySpace has deleted these users from its site but has preserved information about them and is providing it to the attorneys general.
MySpace will continue to search its site for registered sex offenders, and will give the states information about all offenders found on its site including their e-mail and IP addresses. The attorneys general commended MySpace for taking this important safety step.
In 2006 alone, the nationwide media reported almost 100 criminal incidents across the country involving adults who used MySpace to prey or to attempt to prey upon children.
Since May 2006, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have been leading a group of attorneys general from 52 states and territories including Kentucky who are pushing social networking sites to do a better job protecting children from threats such as sexual predators and inappropriate content.
The May 14 letter, written by eight attorneys general on behalf of the larger group, is just the latest part of this effort. Because of the push of the attorneys general, MySpace has previously taken other steps to improve safety on its site such as screening profiles for inappropriate content and making certain profiles private. The attorneys general are continuing to urge MySpace to require parental permission for children to be on its site, among other safety steps.
The OAG is conducting i-Jam seminars across the state for parents, teachers and students. Participants share personal stories and attend skill-building workshops focused on adult Internet crime, cyberpredators, social networking (MySpace/Facebook), cyberbullying, suicide prevention and more. Partnering with the Kentucky Center for School Safety, the OAG has presented national anti-bullying spokesperson, John Halligan, whose son Ryan was a suicide victim.
The Internet safety outreach initiative is one of the products of the i-Shield Task Force established in November 2006. The purpose of the task force is to encourage law enforcement to work together to educate our children, teachers, parents and communities about online risks and give them the instruction needed to avoid becoming the next Internet crime victim. The Task Force has worked with the nonprofit group i-Safe America to help promote Internet safety in schools and communities. It also brings together school resource officers and other crime prevention professionals to promote cybersafety in the schools.
The i-Shield Task Force produces a bimonthly electronic newsletter that details task force activities and shares information about Internet crime and steps law enforcement are taking to combat it. Task force members, as well as other law enforcement contacts, receive the newsletter electronically, and it is posted on the Kentucky i-Shield Task Force electronic bulletin board at www.i-safe.org.