MySpace takes important step against cyberpredators
MySpace has agreed to supply attorneys general with information about convicted sex offenders entering the popular social networking Web site.
HAWAII law enforcement officials announced their cooperation two months ago in a year-old Justice Department campaign to prosecute online sexual solicitors of children. State attorneys general throughout the country achieved an important breakthrough this week with an agreement by social network MySpace to provide them with information about convicted predators entering its Web site
MySpace, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., might be the most popular Web site for predators. Perverted Justice, an anti-predator foundation, found more than 900 pages of registered sex offenders on MySpace during a recent two-week period. Hawaii agencies should ask for similar information from sites such as hi5.com or Facebook.com, which should emulate MySpace's responsible action.
MySpace partnered six months ago with Sentinel Safe Holding to build a database with information about sex offenders in the United States "to weed them out and get them off our site," said Michael Angus, MySpace's executive vice president and general counsel. He said the company has deleted online profiles of 7,000 convicted sexual predators, cross-matched with a database of registered sex offenders.
An executive working group of eight state attorneys general demanded information about the profiled offenders and where they live. MySpace preserved the information with the intent to share it with prosecutors, Angus said.
However, the company understandably balked last week because of concerns that doing so would violate the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which requires a company to receive a subpoena before divulging user information to the government. However, in a conference calls with two attorneys general, the two sides worked out the legal wording of subpoena letters that states could use to request the information.
MySpace will turn over computer addresses that match any of the 2,460 sex offenders registered in Hawaii, said state Deputy Attorney General Kristin Izumi-Nitao. While they might not have been soliciting sex, they might have violated parole or probation terms by using a computer or contacting minors.
If the state wants more specific information, such as the content of e-mails sent over MySpace, the company says it would need to be presented specific search warrants.
Izumi-Nitao said the attorneys general are continuing to urge MySpace to require parental permission for children to enter the Web site. However, parents are most responsible for keeping their children away from cyberpredators on MySpace or similar Web sites.
Authorities advise parents to keep the home computer in a common area, tell their children which Web sites they can access and consider installing anti-pornography software.