MySpace has booted 90,000 sex offenders
MySpace on Tuesday revealed it has booted 90,000 registered sex offenders from its popular online social-networking playground.
Attorneys general in several US states took credit for the information going public, saying that a subpoena forced News Corp-owned MySpace to tell them about sexual predators discovered at the social network.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office is waiting for a response to a similar court order it sent to hot MySpace rival Facebook.
MySpace about two years ago began using specialized software to track down users with convictions for sex crimes and bar them from the website.
MySpace maintains it is the first and only social networking site to use the state-of-the-art technology, created by US firm Sentinel, to identify and remove registered sex offenders.
"MySpace is proud of its leadership position and hopes that Facebook follows our lead in providing their members with the same protections," MySpace said in a 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."
MySpace reports a 10 percent year-over-year rise in users and a 36 percent drop in the number of registered sex offenders trying to create profiles.
US laws require convicted sex offenders to register names, addresses, tattoos, and other identifying information in law enforcement databases.
MySpace uses Sentinel technology to check whether any of the estimated 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States are trying to use the website and then stop them.
Blumenthal, who co-chairs a task force on Internet social networking with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, said the figure revealed by MySpace shows the threat posed to children online is being underplayed.
"This shocking revelation provides compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators' Blumenthal said.
"Law enforcement officials know the reality: children are solicited every day on line. All too often, they fall prey."
Sentinel founder and chief executive John Cardillo, who spent more than a decade as a New York City policeman, said the technology his company uses at MySpace is highly effective at finding and evicting known sex offenders.
Aside from consolidating registered sex offender rosters from throughout the country into a single database, the system uses behavioral and technical markers to identify predators.
"We added random markers that don't depend on honesty, because you know how it is with these guys," Cardillo said.
"There are going to be bad guys who slip through the cracks, but given the technology available today I think we are doing a really good job of mitigating the risk."
More than 20 states keep databases of sex offenders' email addresses to help determine when they might be trying to go to websites or Internet forums popular with children.
Former president George W. Bush in November signed legislation to build a nationwide database of email addresses and instant messaging names used by convicted sex offenders to keep track of them online.
Blumenthal wants websites to be compelled to verify ages, a demand that has yet to be considered technologically feasible.