New York sex offenders hoping to hide behind an online video game avatar are now out of luck. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today that New York has partnered with several tech companies to purge thousands of registered sex offenders from online gaming networks in what he dubbed "Operation: Game Over."
"We must ensure online video game systems do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators," Schneiderman said in a statement today. "That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming networks as a vehicle to prey on underage victims."
So far, more than 3,500 accounts of registered sex offenders in New York have been removed from online video game platforms such as Xbox Live or games like World of Warcraft. This first-of-its-kind initiative comes with the help of Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Bros., and Sony, all of which agreed to shed registered sex offenders from their networks.
New York authorities got the names of the convicted sex offenders from a database where by law the offenders must register their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers.
This initiative coincided with Richard Kretovic, 19, pleading guilty to sex abuse for luring a 10-year-old boy he met on Xbox Live to his house and abusing him. According to the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of teens (12-17) play games online with people they don't know and almost all video game consoles with online capabilities let players use anonymous screen names.
"At Microsoft, we continually evaluate ways to manage safety for our 40 million Xbox Live members and particularly for children on our service," Rich Wallis, vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in a statement. "By leveraging the online identity information all registered sex offenders are required to provide, we are able to help reduce potentially harmful situations."
This isn't the first time a New York attorney general has gone after sex offenders online. In 2009, then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo purged more than 3,500 sex offenders registered in New York from Facebook and MySpace.