Connecticut AG Upset That MySpace's Sex Offender Tracking (Which He Asked For) Works

from the logic-not-required dept

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has been at the forefront of the crusade to "protect the children" by blaming social networks for exposing them to sexual predators. This has largely entailed strong-arming the networks into doing all sorts of largely ineffective things that make for good political grandstanding. For some time, MySpace has been making moves to appease politicians, presumably thinking that it's better for it to take some action to try and keep them off of its back. It's put in place a system to identify sex offenders that have profiles on the site, using government sex offender databases, to track them down and kick them off. Blumenthal's latest stunt was to demand MySpace and Facebook hand over info on how many sex offenders they'd discovered on their sites; MySpace has obliged, revealing that it's identified 90,000 sex offenders on its site. So, you'd think Blumenthal would be thrilled to have some "proof" that the systems he pushed MySpace to put into place are working, that they'd blocked 90,000 would-be predators from contacting kids through the site. You'd be wrong.

Blumenthal instead says the figure "provides compelling proof" that refutes the study that came out a few weeks back -- the study commissioned by Blumenthal and 48 other state attorneys general -- which downplayed the sexual-predator threat social networks posed to children, like other research before it. So because the system he pushed MySpace to put into place is able to identify registered sex offenders, it supposedly proves that this is a real problem, one that he isn't blowing out of proportion, and that MySpace has "monstrously inadequate counter-measures." While we'd argue that most any counter-measure MySpace uses would be inadequate at stopping sexual abuse (because they're fighting a problem that likely isn't that big), it makes little sense why Blumenthal sees MySpace's success at identifying sex offenders in its system, just like he wanted, as a bad thing. It's really hard for MySpace to fight a problem that isn't there, but that doesn't fit Blumenthal's political version of reality.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Phillip, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:16am

    Sex offender != child predator

    90,000 people were blocked but that doesn't mean that this necessarily helps "protect" the kids and I guarantee all 90k aren't child predators.

    Heck with all the news we've seen lately they may even be kids themselves, since if kids share naked pictures of themselves with their bf/gf, who is also a kid and they are "caught" then they are both registered sex offenders.

     

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  2.  
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    Nonce, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    There's good evidence that some percentage of these 90,000 accounts were bogus accounts or false positives, not actual personal profiles of actual Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs).

    Just like the accounts for Mozart and Joseph Stalin, several people reported finding accounts named for sex offenders, with the Registry mugshot as the only profile picture and joke profiles. And using just the name, birth month, and state of residence has been proven to result in false positives.

    Lastly, if we want people who have served their time to re-integrate into society, why are we banning RSO from social networking sites? We let people with pot convictions have myspace pages, why forbid a guy convicted for passing out drunk in a park with his pants down?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    The interesting part about this is that all it does is try to correlate between myspace accounts and the registry. That doesn't mean that A) everyone in the registry is a pedophile, B) everyone in the registry is predatory, or C) the methodology will never return a false positive.

    Assuming the system is beyond amazing and only has a 30% error rate (pretty good for something based off information that is non-unique) and looking at more than 100,000,000 possible matches (monthly active users) with 300,000 added daily (according to google search). Of the number of people on the registries, those that actually are predatory and have access to the internet are a very small percentage. So you can drop another large portion of the results. Compound that with the realities that existing on a social network != inherent predation, and you end up with such a small group of problem people, the threat to children from their parents dwarfs it. Hardly worth all the effort if you ask me.

    Seems easier to just add a button that says "REPORT A PEDO" and just have a system that scans the messages sent by someone reported multiple times for characteristic content, then alerts a team of people to review that single persons account. That would be more effective and probably return the same number of false positives.

     

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  4.  
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    nasch, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    I was thinking the same thing. Why should it be illegal for sex offenders to use these services? What happened to serving your time and then being released? If these people are an ongoing threat to re-offend, why are we releasing them at all? If they are not, why do we keep punishing them?

    So many other things wrong with this.

    "[MySpace] will continue to readily provide information on these removed offenders for their investigations." Investigations of what? They've already been convicted. This makes it sound like AGs just routinely poke around sex offenders just in case they're breaking the law again. I hope that is not the case.

    "A spokesperson for the company also said that no sex offenders have ever been convicted for activity on the site and that the track record reflects MySpace's success in weeding out predators. " Or it reflects that such sites are rarely used for sex offenses.

    "He said the company is working proactively with prosecutors to block registered sex offenders and notify law enforcement for follow-up." Why? If a sex offender registers on Facebook, is that a crime? Why should law enforcement be involved at all?

    "[Facebook] have devoted significant resources to developing innovative and complex systems to proactively monitor the site and its users, including those not on a sex offender registry, for suspicious activity (such as contacting minors or users of predominantly one gender)." So make sure your friends are a mix of male and female and don't include any minors, or you could get kicked off Facebook and get a visit from your local law enforcement to find out if you might be a sex offender.

    "Social networking sites must be barred as playgrounds for predators -- a very real threat exposed by the response to our subpoena." Is there any evidence that these sites are commonly used to initiate child abuse?

    "He is pushing social networking sites to require age and identification verification." Thus killing their business. How many people are going to be happy about providing driver's license or credit card information just to use Facebook? I know I will let them cancel my account before I do.

    "Technology companies and social networking sites must do more -- and do it now. Blaming the victim is appalling and outrageous." But blaming the technology companies is OK.

     

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  5.  
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    nasch, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    But it would probably not get Blumenthal off their backs.

     

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  6.  
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    bill, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    America is afraid of sex and anything to do with it, remember that?

     

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  7.  
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    hegemon13, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    Brilliant response on all counts! Couldn't have said it better.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    bill, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re:

    blumenthal is an idiot. his intentions are good but exaggerated.

     

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  9.  
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    TEA-Time, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    "monstrously inadequate counter-measures."

    Boy will he be surprised when Monster Cable sues him!

     

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  10.  
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    Jon, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: by TEA-Time

    ["monstrously inadequate counter-measures."

    Boy will he be surprised when Monster Cable sues him!]

    ROFL.

     

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  11.  
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    Tony, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Margin of error?

    How many of those 90,000 were not only NOT child predators, but happen to match a "Joe Jones", of the same age and location as someone on the list? I'm willing to bet that number is quite high.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    His intentions are good? That is quite hard to see. He isn't doing this "for the children", otherwise he'd focus on the real issues that children face. Therefore, he must be doing this to further his own political career in some way. I cannot see any good intentions here.

     

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  13.  
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    Sex Offender Issues, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    It's all hype!

    http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

    It's all hype. Just because sex offender, who are human beings, use the site, like others, to keep track of family, friends, etc, doesn't mean they are trolling for someone to molest.

    Hell, if all sex offenders were molesting people like all these AG's and politicians say, everyone in the world would be molested by now.

    It's all hype, for votes, and brownie points, so they look like they are doing something for the sheeple.

    Not all sex offenders are predators, and by lumping them all into one group, does not do anything, except deny people their rights.

    And you can bet, mark my words on this, in the near future, if the are able to continue down this slippery slope, your rights will be next. And when they come for you, it will be too late.

    It's only a matter of time.

     

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  14.  
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    Sex Offender Issues, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:30am

    Warrant?

    If they suspect someone is doing something wrong, why not get a search warrant? Remember those? You are assuming all sex offenders are drooling at the mouth to find their next victim, which is totally absurd and just plain ignorant.

    Stop the boasting and grandstanding!!!!!!

     

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  15.  
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    Sex Offender Issues, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Boasting?

    And now it's time for the Texas AG to boast and grandstand as well.

    It must be election time or something.

    http://www.kbmt12.com/news/local/39147207.html

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Travis, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:39am

    Re: It's all hype!

    Sounds like something a sex offender would say.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    I know of a town in Missouri that if you urinate outside you are a sex offender and will have to register. That is if you are caught by the Police, but not hard at 2 am heavily intoxicated. That being said how many of the 90k were in the wrong place drunk as piss. I also agree with the rehabilitation aspect the served their time not let them live a normal life. I figure that a majority of these people were the result of bad decisions that happen once. The real predators arn't trolling social networking sites they are at the park trying to commit the act.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Xiera, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I fully believe he's doing it "for the children" ... he is just rather short-sighted (like most Americans) and doesn't understand the full impact of his decisions. Or maybe he just doesn't care.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Dave, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    same old $%$$

    Even if politicians now anything about technology, and 98% of them do not, their goal is simply to pander to the most loud-mouthed interest group; they want to get re-elected above all else. The public shares blame here, too - all you have to do is mention any hot-button word, and they get hysterical, and start demanding stupid regulations instead of actually solving a problem.

    Therefore, no matter how cogent and reasonable your argument is, the politician will act stupidly.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Why all the focus on just social networks? To be really effective shouldn't Blumenthal push for ISP's to deny internet services to sex offenders? Should sex offenders be allowed to have phones? Seems pretty risky to allow sex offenders phones they could use to maybe, possible slip into recidivism. What about cars? I don't want sex offenders to drive around looking for trouble.

    Hey Blumenthal, how about enacting laws the keep high risk sexual predators IN JAIL?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Re: It's all hype!

    don't you know? "All heterosexual sex is rape!" so everyone (or nearly so) IS a sex offender!

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Michial, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    Nonce;

    I agreed with your post until the last paragraph. RSO's (as you call them) should be sterilized placed in a deserted island to rot away.

    The reciprocation rate for convicted RSO's is in the high 80's and low 90 percentage points, well above any other crime out there other than maybe speeding.

    The reciprocation rates are the reason that there is even a registry in the first place, most go on the list for life or nearly their entire life...

    Personally I wish that instead of the RSO Lists, we would simply put them to death and save time and money.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Albert, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    You must live in a dream world. I have personally watched how our sexually perverted media and society have destroyed the lives of young children. It is nearly impossible to undo the damage done to them. Out of control sexual appetites have led many to a self-destructive lifestyle that does not regard the harm done to others. The addictive nature of sexual perversion is extremely powerful and generally tends to worse to more violent forms of sexual activity. Sex has been gone from an intimate and special experience between a married couple to a mindless pursuit of sexual highs. The sexual material of today is much more violent and perverted than 10 years ago. Moral objections towards the involvment of young children is slowly being eroded by the constant presentation of relentless sexuality in the media. I am not afraid of sex but I am afraid of pervision. Have we lost our minds?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Bayne, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: It's all hype!

    That's the best you could come up with?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Mojo Bone, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Why would a sex offender try to use a social networking site in the first place when texting the kid on their cell phone is so much more effective?

     

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  26.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: It's all hype!

    Travis? Sounds like a pedo name to me...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Ralph, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    "A spokesperson for the company also said that no sex offenders have ever been convicted for activity on the site and that the track record reflects MySpace's success in weeding out predators. "

    Yes, and my home has never been attacked by wolverines, proving the effectiveness of my wolverine defenses. But definitely not because there are no wolverines where I live.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    I was thinking the same thing. Why should it be illegal for sex offenders to use these services? What happened to serving your time and then being released? If these people are an ongoing threat to re-offend, why are we releasing them at all? If they are not, why do we keep punishing them?

    True - so the criminal justice system in just as complicit as MySpace - actually, even more so.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Travis, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: It's all hype!

    Did you guys forget to turn on your sarcasm detectors?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    Thank that you aren't in charge of any country.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    Exactly. If the Justice system hadn't released these sex offenders, or stopped them from using the internet in the first place, then they are just as responsible as My Space for their actions.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    CJTalker, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    CT AG DOPE

    If you are from CT you know that Blumenthal is just a Grand Stander. He spends tons of CT taxpayer cash and gets crap results.

    1) Sued Microsoft
    2) Sued "Big Tobacco"
    3) Sued Boston College because they left The Big East

    Now he's after Social Networks.
    He's just hot air
    Go after the real criminals!

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Friggin' Ticked, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:50pm

    If it's good enough for sex offenders

    If the registry, residency laws, and kicking them off sites just because of a label, then I think the same is good enough for everyone else.

    Just put every human's personal information online, so we can have a massive phone book, and so we know everyone's past.

    If you have nothing to hide, then what is the problem?

    Take the DNA from children at birth, and from all adults, put it in an RFID implant, and implant it in their forehead or right hand. Sound familiar?

    Welcome to fascist USSA!

    We are heading down the slippery slope, back into slavery, all the while, the sheeple, who have been dumbed down by the TV, American Idol, Jerry Springer, etc, do not see what is before their eyes.

    When they come for you, who will stand up for you?

    Bring it on, I am all for the public branding of everyone. Stamp a big '666' on their heads or hands. Then we will all be forced to bow down to the beast, or be killed by the sword.....

    And remember, you reap what you sow!

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Peter, Feb 8th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    Blumenthal is a DOLT

    He quotes recidivism statistics about sex crimes that were compiled of groups of serial offenders - like saying that anyone who smoked weed once is 90% likely to try heroin, because 90% of Heroin users tried weed.

    My letter to MySpace.

    Dear My Space,

    I recently heard you kicked a whole bunch of registered sex offenders off and I wanted to say I appreciate your concern for America's youth, but I have a few questions.

    1. Do you use any type of metrics to determine what types of offenses these people committed? I suppose that "sex offender" might mean anything from the 19 year old boyfriend of my 17 year old niece, who was prosecuted and registered, all the way up to serial rapist.

    2. Are you making any effort to curtail other types of on line crime? I know that illegal drug sales and prostitution are rampant on many Internet social sites and I was just wondering. What about financial scams or other serious crime?

    3. If I am a legitimate person, let's say a musician with a long resume and band, and I want to have my profile on MySpace - but unfortunately I was busted for having a sexual encounter (with a 16 year old at one of the BARS where I make my living) half a decade ago and forced to register as a sex offender, does that mean I'm not welcome on MySpace even though I never committed any sex crime involving the Internet?

    I suppose wanting to protect our children is noble. But are you? If all you do are wide sweeping gestures, targeting people based not on a particular crime but a generic label (that varies considerably) - and then publicize them widely - yet are doing nothing to curtail other types of crime, isn't that irresponsible? Have you really made MySpace any safer for anyone? Or have just given the impression? Have you not played to mass hysteria and fear to make it look like you care?

    I'd really like to know...

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Sam, Feb 8th, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: 90K accounts, not 90K offenders

    The word is Recidivism, not Reciprocation - and you are incorrect. Sex offenses run the gamut from 18 year olds with 17 year olds in consenting relationships all the way up to serial rapists.

    If you look at the entire population forced to register, and thus be labled as a "Registered Sex Offender" the statistic for recidivism is closer to 15% - which is far lower than any other felony crime.

    One more thing - the people being punished by this are the ones in compliance with the law. They served their sentences and are meeting the requirments of their parole or probation. The States know where they live and their lives are monitored quite closely.

    The people you need to fear are not in compliance, are not registered, and live outside the law.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Shell, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 5:05pm

    what about the kid who was 16 and the girl that was 14

    What about the kid that was 16 and the girl that was 14 and the boy was charged with sexual assault 2. Should he really be considered a sexual predator and have the same restrictions as someone who is a real predator?

     

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  37.  
    icon
    anita (profile), Sep 7th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    in some states, prostitutes are sex offenders

    so now, we've decided that drunks that pee on the street, prostitutes, and guys who were 18 and had 17 year old girlfriends all can't be on MySpace, along with real predators.

    Look at all the people we're excluding -- and remember that laws exclude all these people from real life too. In many areas, these people, all registered "sex" offenders, now have trouble getting jobs, finding places to live, and walking safely out in public.

    So now, we'll keep them off the internet too. In the meantime, someone that really is a pervert but hasn't been convicted is still out trolling for victims while we all think we're safe.

    Remember: the justice system ---isn't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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