MySpace Harbored Nearly 100,000 Sex Offenders - InformationWeek

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2/4/2009
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MySpace Harbored Nearly 100,000 Sex Offenders

Connecticut AG says social networking sites need to do more to stop online predators.

MySpace had 90,000 registered sex offenders on its site, or 40,000 more than originally reported, but the company disputes a state prosecutor's claims that the figures reveal shortcomings.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal recently issued a subpoena requesting the names of people who have been blocked from the site. He sent a similar request to Facebook, which hasn't yet responded.

"This shocking revelation -- resulting from our subpoena -- provides compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators," Blumenthal said in a statement released Tuesday. "Nearly 100,000 convicted sex offenders with MySpace profiles powerfully refutes the recent task force report -- based on outdated and incomplete data -- falsely downplaying the threat of predators on social networking sites."

MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam claimed that the site is more vigilant than competitors about removing offenders.

"As the first and only social networking site to use state of the art technology to identify and remove registered sex offenders from its site, MySpace is proud of its leadership position and hopes that Facebook follows our lead in providing their members with the same protections," Nigam said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement. "As part of our long-standing partnership with law enforcement and state Attorneys Generals, we will continue to readily provide information on these removed offenders for their investigations."

A spokesperson for the company also said that no sex offenders have ever been convicted for activity on the site and that the track record reflects MySpace's success in weeding out predators.

Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly insisted that no predators have ever met a minor through his company's social networking site and added that Facebook is working hard to make sure that never happens. He said the company is working proactively with prosecutors to block registered sex offenders and notify law enforcement for follow-up.

"Protecting our users, especially the many children who use our site has always been a top priority for Facebook," Kelly said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. "We have devoted significant resources to developing innovative and complex systems to proactively monitor the site and its users, including those not on a sex offender registry, for suspicious activity (such as contacting minors or users of predominantly one gender). We also have established a large team of professional investigators to evaluate any reports of potential abuse, including those surfaced by our systems or from our users."

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