New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has proposed strict legislation that would ban some sex offenders from using social-networking services like MySpace or Facebook.
At a press conference on Tuesday in Albany, Cuomo outlined the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators (e-STOP) Act, which he said would "dramatically enhance protections for New Yorkers, especially children, from sexual predators on the Internet."
"We have seen far too many times that in the hands of a sexual predator the Internet can pose a clear and present danger to New York's most vulnerable," Cuomo said in statement released at the press conference. "With the Internet, sexual predators have found an ideal tool to prey on the innocent with anonymity. While government has enacted dramatic protections from sex offenders in recent years, existing laws have not kept pace with the rapid advances in technology."
If passed by the New York legislature and signed into law by Governor Elliott Spitzer, e-STOP will impose a number of new restrictions on sexual offenders:
* Registration of all of the offenders' Internet accounts and identifiers with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
* Authorize the Division of Criminal Justice Services to release the information to social-networking systems. Those services in turn can use the information either to pre-screen sign-ups or notify law enforcement when a known sex offender is found on the site.
* Restrict Internet access for sex offenders in situations where the offender's victim was a minor, the Internet was used to commit the offense, or the offender was designated a level 3 (highest level) offender. The restrictions would include a ban on the use of social-networking sites, a ban on viewing Internet pornography, a prohibition on any communications with a minor for sexual purposes, and, in most cases, a prohibition on communication with anyone under the age of 18.
Broad Business and Legislative Support
Cuomo was joined at his press conference by representatives from several online services, including Yahoo, MySpace and Facebook. Over the past year, the New York attorney general has been an active participant in the ongoing negotiations between MySpace and state attorneys general to purge the service of known sex offenders. Hemanshu Nigam, the chief security officer for MySpace, told reporters that the proposed legislation would complement the steps that MySpace has already taken to remove sex offenders.
In a statement of prepared remarks provided by MySpace communications director Jessica Bass, Nigam praised Cuomo. "With the legislation announced today," Nigam said, "you are putting forward a comprehensive approach that we hope will become a model for other states to follow."
"MySpace has always believed that it takes a partnership of parents, law enforcement and educators to make progress toward a safer online community," Nigam added. He told reporters that the social-networking industry has been a key part of that partnership, and that MySpace looks forward to continuing the work.
It is likely that Cuomo's proposal will receive quick action in the legislature, particularly given the fact that Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and a number of other New York legislators joined Cuomo at his press conference. Governor Spitzer, without taking a specific position on the proposal, has said he looks forward to working with Cuomo and the legislature to make the Internet safer.