New York Convinces Game Companies To Kick Registered Sex Offenders Off Gaming Services
from the it's-an-election-year dept
Back in 2008, New York passed a law requiring registered sex offenders to register all email addresses and social network accounts with the government. Since then, a number of states have passed similar laws and some social networks, such as Facebook, have resorted to simply banning sex offenders from the sites. While these laws provide those who pass them with political capital in following elections, their effectiveness is pretty minimal if it can even be measured.
Not content with just making the online lives of registered sex offenders more difficult, New York is now poised to make sex offenders online lives less enjoyable. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced the first wave of an initiative called “Operation: Game Over”. Under this initiative, over 3500 sex offenders’ online gaming accounts with companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Blizzard have been banned completely. AG Schneiderman applauds the effort with the following:
We must ensure online video game systems do not become a digital playground for dangerous predators. That means doing everything possible to block sex offenders from using gaming networks as a vehicle to prey on underage victims.
While protecting children from dangerous predators is a noble goal, one needs to seriously question this initiative.This isn’t just removing access to gaming networks for those that have targeted children in the past, it is also affecting hundreds possibly thousands of people whose crimes had nothing to do with children. To ban them completely from gaming networks seems a bit much. In fact, the New York Civil Liberties Union questions just that:
While the intent here is admirable, schemes like this one do very little to keep children safe and trample on the right to free speech and expression.
And the problem this initiative is trying to solve is almost non-existent. Children are almost always abused by people they know – a friend or family member – not by people they interact with while playing video games online.
If the problem New York is trying to solve is non-existent, then what are they actually accomplishing here? Much like other similar initiatives, those supporting it have no concrete answers. Even Microsoft has no real idea why it is going along with the initiative it; it just is:
At Microsoft, we continually evaluate ways to manage safety for our 40 million Xbox Live members and particularly for children on our service. Our partnership with the Office of the New York Attorney General helps further this cause.
Do you want to know what could really help you protect the 40 million Xbox Live members? An educational program for parents on how to properly manage the online play of their children would do a far more effective job at protecting children than an effort like this. Banning registered sex offenders will do nothing to protect children from predators that have not been caught and prosecuted in the past.
Not only are these people blocked from playing with children through these services, they are also blocked from playing with friends and family members. We are further eroding the ability for these people to reintegrate themselves with society, and for what? While New York and those gaming companies that partnered with the state continue the witch hunt, they will surely earn some brownie points with parents. After all, that is really what matters in an election year. Being able to say, “I did something to protect your children.” That is the important thing. Who cares if justice is actually being served? Sex offenders are expendable. They aren’t real people. At least you can keep telling yourself that if it helps you sleep at night.