New York Makes Playing Pokemon Go, Other Online Games A Sex Offender Parole Violation

from the grandstanding-is-an-art-form dept

While I don't play Pokemon Go, I've still found the public hysteria surrounding the game to be endlessly entertaining. I've laughed as "get off my lawn" types bitch and moan simply because people are having harmless fun in ways they don't understand. I've chuckled as Pokemon Go players forget that the rules of reality still apply while in augmented reality. And I've laughed at the absurd new lawsuits popping up to try and cash in on the phenomenon.

Continuing the trend of hysterical reactions to a relatively simple game, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo this week took the step of making online games a violation of parole for sex offenders. Not just Pokemon Go....all "similar games," whatever that winds up meaning. In a prepared statement by the Governor, Cuomo insisted that Pokemon Go was a dangerous new avenue allowing sexual predators to prey on helpless tots:
"Protecting New York’s children is priority number one and, as technology evolves, we must ensure these advances don't become new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims," Governor Cuomo said. "These actions will provide safeguards for the players of these augmented reality games and help take one more tool away from those seeking to do harm to our children."
Cuomo also sent a letter to Pokemon Go creator Niantic (pdf) urging the company to help keep Pokemon Go out of the hands of sexual predators:
"The State has taken action to prohibit sex offenders from using this game, but we need your assistance to make certain that sex offenders will not continue to use Pokémon GO by technologically barring their use. Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow."
So yeah, there's obviously a number of huge problems with this. Sex offender registries are already seen as highly controversial and potentially ineffective. The majority of people on them aren't the kind of scary "sexual predators" out to grab kids that the media and politicians like to suggest. In some cases they include people who were caught urinating in public or having consensual sex in semi-public areas. In other words, the vast majority of people on the list have zero interest or likelihood of using the game to go hunting for victims.

On top of that, banning the playing of all online games is a pretty major step in potentially ruining the lives of people trying to get back on track. Banning a specific subset of people from playing Pokemon Go alone would be incredibly difficult, but banning the playing of all online games in an age when even single player games often have an online component? It's quite frankly impossible.

Meanwhile, such a ban would do nothing to stop a child molester from simply hanging out near obvious "pokestops" without ever having to fire up the game.

Cuomo's reaction appears driven by a new report by New York State Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane J. Savino. The report took a list of 100 registered sex offenders across New York City, and compared it to locations where Pokemon Go players gather to fight monsters or collect in-game items. They found 59 instances where a pokéstop or "gym" was within half a block of a sex offenders' home. Granted this being the dense grid that is Manhattan, your chance of being near a sex offender's residence at any given moment is already arguably very high.

In short we're talking about potentially demolishing a life for playing games, using new rules that won't be enforceable anyway. That's before you even get to the potential constitutional questions about the freedom of assembly and due process. All so, let's be honest, Cuomo and other politicians can piggyback on the Pokemon Go phenomenon in order to promote themselves as selfless defenders of tots and toddlers.

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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 7:49am

    If this were a purely hypothetical problem, I might agree. But considering that there have already been multiple reports of predatory types using Pokemon Go to attract victims to assault/rob/rape/kill by camping at out-of-the-way stops, this seems like an eminently sensible step for Governor Cuomo to take.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      You're aware that public urination in some places makes you a "sex offender," right?

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

    • identicon
      techdirtReader, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:35am

      Re:

      Even if there was a Pokemon Go problem, how would banning all online games be eminently sensible? That would seem to be heavy handed - why should some poor schlep, minding his or her own business playing Hearts online, be banned from online games?

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

      • icon
        Padpaw (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:43am

        Re: Re:

        he can't lock these people up forever so instead he will punish them as much as he can get away with. Even if he knows it is based on something other than making things safe for people to do so.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:53am

      Re:

      How does stopping the from playing the games stop them from hanging out in such places?

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

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:53am

      Re: predatory types using Pokemon Go to attract victims

      How does banning the predators from playing the game help?

      The players are the potential victims; not the offenders.

      The predators can hang out and wait for victims whether they play the game or not.

      If if that weren't the case, how would this ban help? These people are felons - if the existing penalties are not enough to discourage them, how is adding a law against playing the game going to make any difference?

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      No. No. No. He could better deploy law enforcement patrols yes but blocking gaming almost entirely is just adding salt to the wound of people trying to rehabilitate. We already screw people for life when they ae convicted for something disregarding the fact that they will probably not do it again unless, of course, we close all the doors and opportunities like we already do.

      So no, It is wrong. The sex offenders list is wrong. Law enforcement is full of bullshit nowadays, we don't need more of it.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 10:29am

      Re:

      I've read stories about assaults & robberies...
      Please provide links to stories about murder & rape cases.

      Imagine if instead of defaulting to someone on the sex offender registry (which has been stuffed with people who have never harmed or tried to harm a child) that they added the 'out of the way' pokestops of routine patrol patterns. Or contacted Niantic and pointed out that specific pokestops are in dangerous areas, could they be moved to better locations?

      This is grandstanding for the soundbite, to solve a problem that doesn't seem to actually exist, so that people on a list (who many of us would never have agreed to put on that list) have their world crushed that much smaller.
      Would citizens think this was such a grand idea if they knew they were paying to keep someone who peed in an alley in jail because of a game?
      Would citizens think this was such a grand idea if they knew they were paying to keep someone who kissed their 1 yr younger girlfriend in jail because of a game?
      Would citizens think this was such a grand idea if they knew they were paying to keep someone who mooned his buddies in jail because of a game?
      Would citizens think this was such a grand idea if they knew they were paying to keep someone who decided to send a naked pic to a significant other who was 2 yrs older in jail because of a game?

      Maybe instead of rushing through policies to grab soundbites, perhaps look at how broken they have made the registry. When an alley peeer gets the same rejection for a place to live or work that someone who actually raped a child... the list is broken.

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

      • icon
        trollificus (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re:

        Perfect. Great comment.

        But all meaningless to a pandering scum politician like Cuomo. Not only is the list a tragic joke, but the ongoing expansion of "restricted activities" and locations ("not within 1,000 yards of school/candy store/daycare/cute puppy, etc") for people on said flawed list calls into question the entire philosophy of incarceration-as-punishment.

        We HAVE punishments in the books for these crimes. When the punishments have been meted out...the State's done. They don't get to add punishments, inconveniences or petty humiliations to the sentence.

        If Cuomo really cared about da chirrens, he'd have these bad people castrated or murdered, or both. AND shunned! Honestly, it seems the patience The State has for the inconveniences presented it by laws and the justice system seems to be growing shorter and shorter. I won't be surprised by the introduction of a "We Can Do Anything We Want Because Pedophiles and Terrorists Act"

        (though I'm pretty sure anyone who points this out is automatically considered a pedophile apologist, amirite?)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:37am

    Let me say first that sexual predators that prey on children are vile, but if these people are such an imminent threat why are they still walking free if not why continue to punish them if they served their time, they're already on a list

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      because we dont really believe they deserve to have their full rights as citizens in good standing restored...
      we believe they should be punished forever with a stinking ex-con albatross hanging on their necks...
      that is why: we are a cruel and callous society...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:44am

    > new avenues for dangerous predators to prey on new victims, ...

    Now if only it were true that "only by playing Pokemon Go" would "children who play Pokemon Go" be "in danger". After all, it's not like predators would actually need to PLAY the game to be ... whatever danger they are going to be.

    Why not ban LOTTO as well? After all, LOTTO tickets are sold at corner stores, places where teens are known to hang out....

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

  • identicon
    Joel, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:53am

    It's getting ridiculous

    Firstly it is ridiculous to ban everyone on the list from playing any online game, because it's unenforcable even with help of the publishers.

    Secondly even if it was enforcable it's not effective. Assuming the behaviours of the young players (i.e. wandering around at night in dangerous places without supervision) is abused by any predators, then how is banning them from playing any help. There are already websites that map out the gameworld so players can cheat and find better pokemon than the ones they encounter on foot. Those same maps list important points like pokecenters or arenas. That way a predator could gain the same information he got from playing even easier from using those websites. If he didn't know about the website he could still simply observe where children amass and lay in wait at the same point at night. Zero effect from the ban.

    And lastly we have to consider civil liberties. I know that standing up for people who have violated others rights is highly unpopular but it needs to be said. You can't simply ban every behaviour that could in some way increase the risk to others, you have to weight the liberties of those who have previously offended too. If we didn't do that then the logical conclusion would be to never let any offender out of prison again. Now granted you could argue that it's a comparatively small limitation of the previous offenders rights and that it's worth it. Of course it could only ever be worth it if it was effective (see second point above) and even then you'd have to take care to only limit the ban to the least restrictions necessary and to the group necessary to reach your goal, which neither of which this proposal does.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:32am

      Re: It's getting ridiculous

      explain to me what "And lastly we have to consider civil liberties." those are?

      People are asking for every possible regulation or law to solve every pesky and minor hangnail they are in convenience with.

      Every time someone says "there ought to be a law" or "we need regulation" are really just saying, "I want less liberty for those guys cause it annoys me".

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 10:16am

        Re: Re: It's getting ridiculous

        Or perhaps instead it's that sometimes government regulation is appropriate and sometimes it isn't, and that which of these cases applies is a matter of differing reasons and opinion.

        Wholesale anti-regulation bullshit is why Comcast gets to be Lord and Master of so many people's internet connections.

        Sometimes there really ought to be a law.

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

      • identicon
        Joel, 5 Aug 2016 @ 12:22am

        Re: Re: It's getting ridiculous

        I guess there is no fancy name for this. Maybe it figures into pursuit of happiness. Basically the freedom to do anything that doesn't restrict the rights of others. Whenever a law restricts people in their behaviour it needs to be for the protection of others. Maybe I'm not making myself very clear, I'm struggeling with finding the proper English terms here.

        What I mean is that even people who have previously been punished for a crime are still afforded the right to participate in society like any other citizen after the punishment*. Sometimes they have that right restricted, say by not being allowed near schools, but then it's weighed against the right to bodily integrity of the children and society considers that trade off worth it. Sometimes it goes so far to negate this right outright and people are kept behind bars even after their punishment has been served, when they pose too great of a danger to society.

        So I'm not saying that right is not to be restricted, that would be ludicrous, even free speech etc have restrictions, but I insist that at least some thought needs to be given to how far you restrict rights for questionable gain. Even if the one to be restricted is on the sexual offenders list.

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

  • identicon
    Adam, 4 Aug 2016 @ 8:55am

    Who's with me?

    We MUST stop sex offenders from buying and eating candy! Candy has been used as a lure for children by predators! We must stop all candy NOW!

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

    • identicon
      Skat, 4 Aug 2016 @ 12:11pm

      Re: Who's with me?

      Yes! Buying candy should require an application and background check similar to that for buying a gun. We can't let sexual offenders obtain candy to possibly use as kiddy lures!

      Think of the children!

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:03am

    Political grandstanding at it's "finest."

    ""The State has taken action to prohibit sex offenders from using this game, but we need your assistance to make certain that sex offenders will not continue to use Pokémon GO by technologically barring their use. Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow.""

    "The State has taken action to prohibit sex offenders from using this game"
    Um no Como... you did no such thing. What you did do was make it a parole violation if caught, nothing to prohibit it's use.

    "but we need your assistance to make certain that sex offenders will not continue to use Pokémon GO by technologically barring their use."
    Ahhh... you want a magical golden unicorn that farts gold dust. Done and done. /s

    ""Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow.""
    And by together I mean you... all you smart people MUST be able to find a way right? (See unicorns)

    No wonder these morons think that you can have a golden key to encryption. What complete emotional bullshit. But hey... at least he is DOING SOMETHING right??? /s

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:12am

    but we need your assistance to make certain hat sex offenders will not continue to use Pokémon GO by technologically barring their use.

    Just what wonderful technology is he proposing they use? Is this another excuse in the effort to eliminate privacy and anonymity for everybody who goes online?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:12am

    unicorns

    ""Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow.""
    And by together I mean you... all you smart people MUST be able to find a way right? (See unicorns)



    "We're sorry, all unicorns are currently busy trying to assist the FBI with encryption/backdoor solutions.

    Please call back later... thank you."

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

  • icon
    FITZ! (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 9:38am

    Cuomo just wanted a cheap Gyarados

    Now's the time to purchase a cheap Pokemon Go account while they're in high supply.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 10:07am

    What about people on the murderer's registry?

    Once again, why are we singling out sex offenders? Hear me out...

    Suppose you murder a child, get arrested, and get sentenced to 30 years in jail. When you get out, you don't have to go a on "murderer's registry" and notify your neighbors about your past. Yet if you urinate in public and get caught, you could be put on the sex offender registry... even though didn't harm anyone. And now you can't play Pokemon Go because you had to pee and couldn't find a bathroom? How is this considered fair?

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

  • identicon
    Anon, 4 Aug 2016 @ 11:08am

    Of course...

    The fastest growing category of sex offender is teenager. This is because a case where the girlfriend is slightly below the age of consent is an easy one to prosecute - it boosts the DA's numbers and assuages the girl's parents. They problem is, for these offenders,doing what comes naturally puts them on a list that slightly older guys would avoid.

    The list was intended for "dangerous" sex offenders - ones attracted to prepubescent children (and caught acting on it), violent rapists, and incurable exhibitionists (i.e. gratuitous repeat offenders). Unfortunately, there are not enough of these to make the DA's look good, so it's expanded to encompass everyone and everything, like the Patriot Act - "Did we say stop terrorists? We meant all suspected criminals who might in the future have something to do with these heinous acts..." Since when do 14-year-old girls sending nude selfies qualify as sex offenders, except in a world where DA's want to boost their numbers or use it as a threat to make them accept a deal.

    I put 100 sex offenders on the registry!" Never mind that 95 of them were 17-year-old boys; nobody looks into that. That boast will help the DA get elected.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 4 Aug 2016 @ 3:23pm

    so umm dear cuomo... tell me exactly how many toddlers are playing pokemon go... or online games in general BEFORE you start with these kind of bullshit laws.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 4:56pm

    Finally! Someone is thinking of the children and they ate doing something

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2016 @ 5:09pm

    Just use a VPN to hide what you are are doing on your phone, then just do a factory data reset, to erase your phone, in case they ever want to inspect your phone.

    When Factory Data Reset has been done, all previous data on your phone has been wiped, and there is current no police forensic tool that can recover it.

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 4 Aug 2016 @ 6:44pm

    Kauf nicht bei Juden!
    Die Juden sind unser Unglück!

    Geh nach
    -wait, we're not after Jews?
    Oh, sorry. I saw that we were persecuting innocent people for political gain and, well, I jumped to conclusions.
    Dreadfully sorry.

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


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