Convicted sex offenders living in New York can say goodbye to their social-networking privileges. The state has just booted 3,533 convicted sex offenders off MySpace and Facebook in an attempt to fight online sexual predators. The purge was the
first sweep of registered sex offenders under the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), a 2008 law Attorney General Andrew Cuomo aggressively pushed [New York Daily News]. Those removed from Facebook and MySpace will be referred to their parole officers to determine if anyone violated the terms of their release by being on a social networking site. The e-STOP law bans those sex offenders
whose victims were minors from joining social networking sites.
Under e-STOP, New York's 30,000 convicted sex offenders are required to submit their
home, e-mail, and social networking addresses to the state. Authorities say around 27 percent of that pool turned in email or social networking addresses, and only 10 percent of those held MySpace or Facebook accounts. Proponents of e-STOP say the first sweep is proof that the law is working. However, the law relies on the honor system, whereby
criminals volunteer their social networking identities, as they are required to do within 10 days of creating a new account under penalty of new felony charges [Wired.com].
A representative from the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services told the New York Daily News that the remaining 22,000 convicted sex offenders (who didn't turn in email or Facebook addresses) are either in jail, homeless, or simply lack internet access. The two popular social networking sites have felt pressure to remove convicted sex offenders from their sites, and appear to be yielding to those concerns. Back in February,
MySpace revealed that over 90,000 registered sex offenders have been kicked off its site in the past two years [TechCrunch]. Many of those expelled may have simply moved over to Facebook. Of the 3,500 sex offenders removed during New York's e-STOP sweep, 79 percent were on Facebook.
In addition to New York's e-STOP law, Illinois law makes it a felony for sex offenders to register for social networking sites.
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Image: flickr / benstein