Sex offenders love networking on Facebook and MySpace just like everybody else, but a 2008 law called the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) put tight restrictions on their Internet use—especially if their prior offense involved a minor. In the first major crackdown since the law went into effect, 3,533 registered New York state sex offenders have been purged from Facebook and MySpace, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.
Over 43% of the state's 8,100 registered sex offenders were caught maintaining a profile on Facebook and/or MySpace. Of those who just lost their accounts, the highest number reside in Queens (186), with Brooklyn (177) and the Bronx (143) coming in second and third. Information about the accounts is now being shared with law enforcement authorities, and Cuomo has sent letters to other social networking sites urging them to use info provided by the state to purge sex offenders.
Under e-STOP, convicted sex offenders must register all of their Internet accounts and Internet identifiers (e-mail addresses and designations used for chat, instant messaging, social networking, or other similar Internet communication) with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. And as condition of probation or parole, offenders whose crime involved a minor or the Internet are banned from "accessing social networking websites, accessing pornographic materials, communicating with anyone for the purpose of promoting sexual relations with a minor, and communicating, in most circumstances, with anyone under the age of 18."
"This should really be a wakeup call for everybody, whether it's parents watching what their kids do online, and all the law enforcement groups and authorities, and the sites themselves," one source familiar of the mass Facebook and MySpace purges told the Daily News. And in a statement, Facebook's Tim Ullyot said, "Facebook will continue to look for innovative approaches, both internally and in cooperation with law enforcement, to screen, block, and help prosecute anyone who would attempt to misuse our service to harm others."