Att’y General: 57 Oswego County Sex Offenders Booted From Social Websites

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) law he authored has now resulted in the removal of accounts associated with at least 4,336 registered sex offenders from major social networking Web sites operating in the United States. Additionally, Cuomo is sending letters to 14 Web sites that primarily cater to children, urging them to provide further protections against the threat of sexual predators online by screening their member lists using e-STOP data.

Cuomo’s office said that 57 registered sex offenders listed as living in Oswego County have been booted off Facebook, MySpace and 13 other social networking sites because of his office’s campaign.

At the end of 2009, Attorney General Cuomo announced that Facebook and MySpace removed 5,385 accounts linked to 3,533 sexual predators from their rolls. Cuomo today announced that an additional 6,336 online profiles linked to approximately 803 additional New York state registered sex offenders have been removed from popular social networking sites. Attorney General Cuomo’s e-STOP measure has now resulted in the removal of 11,721 profiles associated with 4,336 dangerous sexual predators registered in New York.

“New York is once again leading the way in ensuring that social networking Web sites use the data that is now available, thanks to the e-STOP law, to keep kids safe,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “So far, thousands of sexual predators who had opened thousands of accounts have been purged from social networking sites. I am now taking this important protection a step further. I am calling on sites that specifically cater to children to screen users to reduce the threat posed by dangerous sexual predators.”

In December, Cuomo announced that Facebook and MySpace removed accounts associated with a combined total of 3,533 registered New York state sex offenders from their sites. Shortly thereafter, 13 additional social networking sites, including those owned by Google, Yahoo! and AOL, agreed to use e-STOP to purge sex offenders. Cuomo also called on Friendster, Buzznet and eSpin to commit to using the list. These social networking Web sites have successfully removed hundreds of accounts tied to registered sex offenders with Cuomo’s law:

* MyLife/formerly – 2,001 offenders (2,100 accounts)
* Tagged – 854 offenders (950 accounts)
* hi5 – 169 offenders (575 accounts)
* BlackPlanet – 114 offenders (570 accounts)
* Bebo/AOL -253 offenders (542 accounts)
* Flixster – 441 offenders (508 accounts)
* Flickr/Yahoo -343 offenders (448 accounts)
* Friendster – 255 offenders (271 accounts)
* eSpin – 103 offenders (120 accounts)
* Orkut/Google – 62 offenders (113 accounts)
* Stickam – 102 offenders (109 accounts)
* Buzznet – 13 offenders (18 accounts)
* Fotolog – 10 offenders (12 accounts)

Along with Facebook and MySpace the two largest social networking Web sites, this sweep constitutes the overwhelming majority of these types of sites operating in the United States.

Additionally, Attorney General Cuomo calls on popular Web sites that cater to children to screen their users. Although these sites have some safeguards in place, the Attorney General believes they should add to those measures by screening their rolls using e-STOP information. These sites include:

* AllyKatzz
* BarbieGirls
* Build-a-Bearville
* Club Penguin
* Girlsense
* Neopets
* Secretbuilders
* Stardoll
* Supersecret
* Teen Second Life
* Toontown
* Tootsville
* Webkinz
* Whyville

e-STOP was passed unanimously by the New York State Assembly and Senate and went into law in 2008. Authored by Attorney General Cuomo, it is the first law of its kind requiring convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and other online identifiers with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services’ (DCJS) New York State Sex Offender Registry. That information is then made available to social networking sites. In total, the law:

* Requires that sex offenders register all of their Internet accounts and identifiers (e-mail addresses and designations used for chat, instant messaging, social networking, or other similar Internet communication) with DCJS.
* Authorizes DCJS to release state sex offender Internet identifiers to social networking sites and certain other online services to prescreen or remove sex offenders from using the site’s services and notify law enforcement authorities and other government officials of potential violations of law and threats to public safety.
* Requires, as a condition of probation or parole, mandatory restrictions on a sex offender’s access to the Internet 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. Such offenders would be banned from accessing social networking Web sites, accessing pornographic materials, communicating with anyone for the purpose of promoting sexual relations with a minor, and communicating, in most circumstances, with anyone under the age of 18.

According to DCJS, as of February 1, 2010, there are 29,976 registered sex offenders on file in New York (11,197 level 1 offenders, 10,686 level 2 offenders, 7,490 level 3 offenders, and 603 pending). 8,606 of these offenders have reported either a screen name or email address. In the U.S., there are approximately 627,000 registered sex offenders.

Laura Ahearn, Executive Director for Parents for Megan’s Law, said, “Attorney General Cuomo deserves plaudits creating a measure that has effectively applied many important aspects of Megan’s Law to the Internet. We join him in calling on all remaining sites, especially those that cater to kids, to adopt e-STOP. We must continue to make sure the law is on the side of children and families as predators seek new ways to cause harm.

Edward Suk, New York Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s leadership and foresight in putting forth measures to keep children safe online has delivered proven results. We were proud to endorse e-STOP when it was first proposed, and we are proud to stand with him today in the wake of its success and promise of providing further protections to our children.”

Joe Farrell, Interm Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s track record of taking bold steps to make the Internet a safer place speaks for itself, and today’s announcement urging sites that are popular with children is another example of his tenacity. We are fortunate to have him as our Attorney General and look forward to continuing to work with him to ensure safeguards to protect children are put in place.”

Attorney General Cuomo has made Internet safety and consumer protection a priority of his office:

* In 2008 every major Internet Service Provider including Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, AOL, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision agreed to block access to child porn Newsgroups, a major supplier of illegal images, and also to purge their servers of child pornography Web sites.
* In 2007, Cuomo reached a deal with Facebook to enforce new safeguards aimed at protecting its network members, especially children and adolescents, from sexual predators, obscene content, and harassment.
* Last week, Cuomo announced a major investigation into 22 popular online businesses for deceptively linking unsuspecting consumers to fee-based membership programs that siphon money from credit and debit accounts under the guise of discount offers
* In 2009, Cuomo reached a $500,000 settlement with social networking site for misappropriating the contacts lists and identities of its members and from sending out millions of deceptive and unsolicited promotional emails
* In 2007, Cuomo’s Office, passed a new law that affords online consumers the same protections as those who make purchases over the phone or through the mail

The Attorney General’s e-STOP initiative is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Karen A. Geduldig under the supervision Special Deputy Chief of Staff Mitra Hormozi.