Legislation To Deter Sex Offenders From Social Websites Moves Forward
On Tuesday, the California Assembly Safety Committee passed legislation authored by Senator George Runner. It would require all registered sex offenders to register their online addresses with state law enforcement. Senate Bill 1204 is this year’s lone remaining bill which seeks to fight sexual predators that prowl social websites for potential victims.
Runner called SB 1204 another tool for law enforcement to use in monitoring some of society’s most dangerous sex offenders. If the offenders don’t comply with new registration requirements, they risk up to six months in jail.
“In the past decade it’s become obvious that internet technology is a convenient means for predators to stalk potential victims,” Runner said. “Sex offenders are already required to register their physical addresses with local police; now we will know what web pages, instant messaging names, and email addresses they maintain.”
Besides registering online addresses, one of the objectives of SB 1204 is to deter sex offenders from joining Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking websites. While on parole, sex offenders may be prohibited form accessing social networking sites. Once parole is completed, however, a sex offender is free to join such sites.
“Under current law, a convicted sex offender, like John Albert Gardner III, can open up an online account using a fake name or incorrect age,” said Runner. “By requiring such accounts be registered, SB 1204 creates a database for law enforcement and a tool which can be used to keep sexual predators from abusing social networking sites.”
As the bill moves forward, Senator Runner has committed to ensure that onlilne address information collected under SB 1204 may be accessed to permit social networking sites to voluntarily purge registered sex offenders form the sites.
California will join New York and Illinois in enacting such a law. New York passed a similar bill in 2008, known as “e-STOP”.
More than 3,500 registered New York sex offenders have been purged from Facebook and Myspace since the bill passed. John Walsh, co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, supports New York e-STOP, “New York sets the gold standard for other states to follow.
SB 1204 is supported by statewide law enforcement agencies and associations, as well as Facebook. It moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote in coming weeks.