There's been a lot of talk (well, more so than usual) lately about how to protect kids from internet predators on sites like MySpace, with politicians from all over looking to come in and put in place ineffective measures that do little more than provide a PR opportunity to show how much they care about the children. Virginia's attorney general is getting in early, saying he's going to propose a law that would force sex offenders to register their email addresses and IM screen names with the state so sites can block them. MySpace is enthusiastic about the proposal, because it makes its plan to weed out predators look like more than the lip service it really is. But, of course, like the most recent plan to stop illegal content, it would also require a massive bureaucracy. Who would enforce the law, and make sure that offenders weren't just registering one identity -- or indeed, none at all -- and using a different one? Even with sufficient investigators to keep tabs on these things, it's a pointless strategy because it's completely ineffective, and will actually do absolutely nothing to protect children online. The attorney general concedes the plan is useless: "This is not a foolproof approach, as we all fully realize how easy it is to get new email addresses. But by requiring registration, and by making the penalties for failure to register the same as those for failure to register physical and mailing addresses, we will take another positive step towards protecting children online." No, you really won't -- because email addresses and screen names are useless information to keep track of. But who cares, when the media portrays you as a great protector of children?
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