Proposal To Ban Sex Offenders From Social Networking Sites Gains Support

New York's e-STOP legislation cited as a potential national model to protect children from online sexual predators.
New York City prosecutors have lined up to support a bill that would keep sex offenders off of social networking sites.

The district attorneys from all five of the city's boroughs said this week that they back New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators (e-STOP) legislation, which would prohibit sex offenders from joining social networking sites.

The bill would make it a parole condition for sex offenders with child victims or a history of using the Internet to commit sex crimes to register their screen names and other identifiers for instant messaging, e-mail, and other Internet communication. It would also apply to offenders designated as a level 3, the highest risk level under New York's system to categorize and monitor sex offenders.

Those offenders would not be allowed to access social networking sites, view pornography, or communicate with anyone to promote sex relations with minors. It would also prohibit Internet communications with people under age 18, in most cases.

The bill would allow the Division of Criminal Justice Services to release offenders' information to networking sites and some other Internet services to help private companies prevent offenders from joining.

"Existing laws protecting children from sexual predators have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology," Cuomo said in a news announcement this week. "Government's primary responsibility is to protect its citizens, and e-STOP will be effective at helping prevent sexual predators from using the Internet to victimize our children."

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said Cuomo's bill could become a national model.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said, "new technologies require new laws."

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan said, "e-Stop not only helps law enforcement, but it assists social networking services such as My Space and Facebook patrol their sites and protect their users."

The bill has bipartisan support in both of New York's legislative chambers.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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