No sex offenders allowed

Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation this session that would bar sex offenders from accessing social networking sites like MySpace, the online community where young people are way too casual about sharing their personal information.

The bill is similar to one in the New York State Assembly that would would force sexual predators to register their instant messaging screen names and enable sites like MySpace and Facebook to block their access.

But how can this sort of legislation be enforced? Sexual offenders might change usernames or e-mail addresses to cover their tracks.

According to Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, who authored the House bill, someone would have to report the sex offender being on MySpace first. Alternately, probation officers — and others — would have authority under the bill to enter a sex offender’s home without a warrant, confiscate the computer, and have it checked to see if they’ve been on MySpace or other social networking site.

There are an estimated 15,000 sex offenders in Minnesota. Various “reports” have said MySpace has between 29,000 and 32,000 registered sex offenders as users. Attorneys general from 49 states — including Minnesota — forced an agreement from MySpace earlier this year to heighten security. It pledged to default user profiles of 16- and 17-year-olds to a private category, and purge sex offenders from its service.

But that moves comes a year after a similar promise by MySpace to clean its membership of sexual predators.

There is, as Nate Anderson of Ars Technica pointed out back then, a huge flaw in the approach.

Without federal legislation requiring sex offenders to register e-mail addresses, the entire scheme falls apart. How else will MySpace match user accounts against their new database? Using names? If we assume that there is not a complete overlap between the “total moron” population and the “sex offender” population, it immediately becomes obvious that sex offenders are not going to sign up to a site like MySpace using their real names.

Then again, maybe the Spitzer case will be in the game, now that the New York Times has discovered who Client 9’s hooker was.

  • brian

    “Bigham’s bill won unanimous approval in the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee on Wednesday, although some lawmakers questioned whether it could be more sweeping.”

    Of course it did… how could you vote against a bill like this? There would be ads saying you are pro-sex offender the next day.

    I’m as against sex crimes as the next guy, but is this bill really needed? I think it is both unenforceable and overkill.

    “New Jersey last year banned Internet use for convicted sex offenders who used a computer to commit their original sex crime.”

    This is even crazier. There is no way to keep sex offenders off of the internet. Keep track of your kids.

    IT IS EASY TO WRITE LEGISLATION AGAINST SEX OFFENDERS! THEY HAVE NO ADVOCATES! Politicians just want to be able to say they are tough on crime without having to actually do anything.

  • Real Laws

    These types of laws will not stop sexual assaults. It won’t stop people from being assaulted. It only puts people in jail and on probation that shouldn’t be. What we need are laws that really protect kids and women. Laws like these only isolate sex offenders. They already can’t get jobs, can’t afford their meds (which IS scary). I bet that these sex crimes taking place on myspace and facebook aren’t sex offenders yet. After all it is proven, statistically, that a sex offender is less likely to commit a sex crime than someone who isn’t a sex offender. Societies throughout time have had a section of the people who are discriminated against. They may have been lepers, witches, adulters, jews, blacks, someone has to be put down so the other classes can feel better about themselves. Why don’t we just make sex offenders wear a big scarlet S on their sleve with the star of David around it. THESE LAWS DO NOT PREVENT SEX CRIMES! THEY JUST MAKE POLOTICIANS LOOK BETTER AT ELECTION TIME!