January 30, 2007 5:43 AM PST

Proposal requires sex offenders to list e-mail, IM

Thousands of Web sites with message boards or chat rooms would be encouraged to check their lists of registered users against a federal list of sex offenders, according to forthcoming legislation in the U.S. Congress.

The proposal says that such Web sites may--but are not required to--send a formal statement to the U.S. Department of Justice to request a list of sex offenders' e-mail addresses and screen names used for instant messaging.

A press conference is planned on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to announce the sex-offender legislation (PDF), a draft version of which was seen in advance by CNET News.com. Scheduled speakers include Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, and MySpace.com Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam.

"This bill provides social-networking sites, which are an increasingly popular way for kids to connect with their friends, with one more tool to help keep our children safe from dangerous predators on the Internet," Pomeroy said in response to an inquiry Monday.

The legislation may also help allay the public relations problems that News Corp.-owned MySpace has encountered after a series of incidents involving adults using the popular service to seek sex with youths. Earlier this month, for instance, MySpace said it had developed software to let parents know what their children were doing online.

Current federal law requires that sex offenders provide information to the federal registry including their name, Social Security number, home address, work address, license plate number, DNA sample, fingerprints, and palm prints.

Pomeroy's so-called "Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act," or KIDS Act, would add the requirement of providing an e-mail address, instant message name and any other "similar Internet identifier."

The offender's e-mail address and other Internet information would be generally exempt from disclosure to the public. Social-networking sites, however, would be permitted to request it in confidence from the attorney general.

Social-networking sites are defined as any commercial Web site that permits people to create their own Web pages and offers a "mechanism for communication with other users," which would include sites like Slashdot.org, Amazon.com, CNET's Gamespot.com and CNET Reviews.

A similar version of the KIDS Act has been drafted by aides to Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican. One difference is that the draft Senate bill includes a revocation of supervised release for failure to register.

McCain has not introduced in the new Congress a related proposal from last year, which would force Web sites to report illegal images posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000 and delete Web pages posted by sex offenders.

Virginia's attorney general has also proposed an e-mail registration requirement for sex offenders.

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20 comments

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About time
Frankly, I would be ok with someone convicted either by a jury for a registration-required sex offense having to submit to random home visits to ensure that they did not have a computer, and if they used one at work (yeah, plenty of them do have jobs...probably one sitting in the cubicle next to you now), they would have to comply with this as a condition of probation or parole. Sex offenders are not, with the exception of those so labeled for consensual acts that in most states are legal (such as the one listed on ESPN this week about the kid I think in Indiana), do not get rehabilitated with treatment or prison time. They have an incurable disease and deserve their punishments. I think MySpace is going along with this to make sure that they have a good strong footing against future lawsuits, even though I believe that the recent ones filed will get dismissed...hello, when are these parents going to EVER take a shred of responsibility for their failure to actually be a parent....

On top of that, if this becomes a law, all the other companies would have to comply, reducing any loss of competitive advantage to MySpace, which to a major company, is a primary goal.
Posted by ctg44 (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oopps
should be...."convicted by a jury...take the either out...
Posted by ctg44 (27 comments )
Link Flag
RE
"Frankly, I would be ok with someone convicted either by a jury for a registration-required sex offense having to submit to random home visits to ensure that they did not have a computer, and if they used one at work (yeah, plenty of them do have jobs...probably one sitting in the cubicle next to you now), they would have to comply with this as a condition of probation or parole."


You might be ok with it, but that doesn't make it legal. Considering most offender are essentially on probation for the rest of their life denying something that has become necessary like a computer would be hard to justify. Especially since their is more to a computer than just connecting it to the internet.

"Sex offenders are not, with the exception of those so labeled for consensual acts that in most states are legal (such as the one listed on ESPN this week about the kid I think in Indiana)"

By definition a consensual sexual act can not be use to label someone a sex offender. The problem is the definition of sex offense varies by state like the age of consent. In some states, simply being the age of consent isn't enough cause most states do not recognize a minors ability to consent to sex in the first place (despite having an age of consent usually around 15 or 16) or if they do there is a limit on the difference between their ages etc etc. It's confusing and it makes criminals out of naive teens, and as far the sex offender registries are concerned their every bit as bad as serial pedophiles. The idea that there is any major difference the reasoning ability of a 17 year old and 18 year old is specious at best.


"do not get rehabilitated with treatment or prison time."

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, recidivism rates are lower for sex offenders than for other violent offenders. Yet only three states (Indiana being one) have violent offender registries.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
You make no sense
You say they have an incurable disease and then turn around to say they deserve their punishments. A justice society does not punish people for having a disease. It should seek to cure them, but it is both highly illogical and ethically objectionable to punish people for having a disease.
Posted by PzkwVIb (462 comments )
Link Flag
Oh yeah, that'll work... pfft.
It takes less than two minutes to make a new yahoo or msn email account, and a preditor's knowledge of proxy services could further reduce this program's effectiveness.
Posted by Wyndle (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Learn how the cyberspace works
As another commenter pointed out: It takes 2 minutes to register another e-mail address.

And what if an e-mail on the list get closed and then later on - another person registers it?
I'd hate to be labeled a sex offender just because I picked the wrong e-mail address at Yahoo or something.
Posted by Foersom (1 comment )
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And This Will Help The Problem How???
Our government has already proved that they are completely incompetent when it comes to actually trying to solve any problem related to our general welfare.

Case in point: Some idiot gets on a plane with explosives stowed in his shoes. The government's response: Make everyone take off their shoes before boarding a plane. This solution fails to address the real problem that people bent on breaking the law will try to do so in new and horrible ways. Simply requiring a sex offender to register email addresses and screen names will do nothing because it is built on the assumption that these people THAT ALREADY BROKE THE LAW will now play by the rules. C'mon! If they want to, they'll just get another email address or another screen name and do it anonymously.

We need to come up with solutions to this problem that at least embrace the reality that bad people will break the law as many times as is necessary to keep doing what they are doing.

The department of homeland insecurity should take a lesson from this fiasco and start really doing something to protect us. Instead, we seem as a society to keep reacting to one specific situation instead of trying to address the general problem.
Posted by mikekrause (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Those who obey, will be tracked, those who won't obey, eh?
Not everyone will disobey the law either.

It will only be the law abiding ones, the ones who are trying, that will follow this law.
Posted by pinkyone (3 comments )
Link Flag
Laughable
If it's not required what do you think the chances are of sites going through the extra trouble of getting the list then screening their users against it? Much less doing it on a regular basis, as would be required for this to even be remotely effective.

It should also be pointed out not all sex offenders are child molesters and/or predators, so there is a lot of unnecessary searching.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Authentication
The Internet needs a standard means of authentication (akin to a drivers license and/or passport in the physical world) before any significant ground can be gained with this.

Currently, every organization on the Internet, be it MySpace, or Google, or Yahoo, or MSN, or CNET, or whoever, maintains their own independent database of who is who, making it very difficult to demonstrate who has committed what violations. Further, anyone can blur their activity trail even more by simply re-registering at different sites using different names -- since they all rely solely on user-provided information.

That being said, this proposal is probably a good start -- I'm sure there's a certain percentage of cases that will probably be prevented by something like this. However, many of the more savvy (I feel so tainted using that word to describe them) offenders will continue to find ways to blur their identities...
Posted by phantomsoul (50 comments )
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Oh my God, this is seriously ridiculous
I'm absolutely all for keeping sexual predators away from children and anybody else they could possibly attack.

Free email and IM accounts are LESS THAN a dime a dozen. What the heck do these people think is going to make a sexual predator give them the one they may be using to continue the offenses that landed them in trouble to begin with?

Now get rid of the anonymous access to email and IMs and everything else and THEN you MIGHT be able to do it. If they can do that, I certainly don't have a problem with it.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you're missing the point
Failure to comply with this requirement would constitute a chargeable offense. This means that the offender could be charged with a parole violation for failing to register his email address (signaling intent to do something nasty) before he actually manages to harm a child.
Posted by gw188397 (45 comments )
Link Flag
Mandated to register where they live as well
But that doesn't seem to work... so now they expect pedophiles to register each and every single account they use?!?!?!

And they SERIOUSLY expect the plan to work?

(* ROFLOL *) (* ROFLOL *) (* ROFLOL *)

Just an additional waist of taxpayers money and more bureautic red tape but it won't help to solve the problem in the least...

But hey... that's what the government is good at... mucking things up!!!

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is what should happen:
This is what should happen:

If found guilty of molesting/raping/etc. anyone under 18, and you were not under 18, you should be castrated and left in prison to die.

If above, but you were of a similar age to the "victim", and there was obvious consent, then get a warning about having intercourse outside of marriage.

If both victim and molester under 18, but the victim is very under 18, then castrate and be left to die in prison.
Posted by james.grimes (58 comments )
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