MySpace Defends Efforts To Vet Sex Predators - InformationWeek

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7/26/2007
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MySpace Defends Efforts To Vet Sex Predators

The social networking site responds to an attorney general claim that the site contains more than 29,000 sex offender profiles.

MySpace.com maintains that it is committed to deleting sex offenders and has been working hard with a technology company to identify them.

The social networking site issued a statement late Wednesday in response to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's announcement that the site contained more than 29,000 sex offender profiles. He said that figure "screams for action," while North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a seven-page statement about the dangers of the site and others like it.

"We partnered with Sentinel Tech to build technology to remove registered sex offenders from our site," Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer for MySpace, said in a prepared statement. "Through this innovative technology, we're pleased that we've successfully identified and deleted these registered sex offenders and hope that other social networking sites follow our lead."

MySpace announced in December plans to partner with Sentinel Tech Holdings to come up with its own means of spotting registered sex offenders who use the social networking site. MySpace combs its site for matches against Sentinel Tech's database of registered offenders.

In May, attorneys general from Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania teamed up to demand information about registered offenders.

Soon after, MySpace announced that it had deleted profiles of 7,000 offenders, far fewer than the numbers announced this week, after several attorneys general received MySpace's records in response to subpoenas. Cooper said the 29,000 figure only represents offenders who used their real names to sign up.

"Web sites that encourage children to share personal information and to talk online to others offer predators easy targets," he said, citing an arrest last year of a North Carolina police officer accused of raping a 14-year-old he lured through MySpace.

"Few safeguards keep the children away from adult users, so child users are exposed to adults seeking sex and more," he said. "This proposal requires that these Web sites get a parent's OK before children under 18 join and post personal information, and give parents the chance to see what their children post."

He said a Clayton, N.C., mother reported failure after trying to get MySpace to delete profiles of several of her daughter's classmates who are under 14 years old.

"A review of media reports through the first six months of 2007 found more than 100 criminal incidents involving adults who used MySpace, the largest social networking site, to prey or attempt to prey on children," he said. "That's double the number of such incidents reported in the media in 2006. That's only one Web site, and doesn't include incidents that went unreported."

In fact, before last year, little attempt was made to classify and record crimes online, so statistics were unavailable for specific sites and specific crimes.

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