Social Networking

MySpace to Combat Sexual Predators With Technology on Tuesday said it would partner with an online identity and background check firm to build technology that blocks convicted sex offenders from joining its community.

The leading online social networking community is working withSentinel Tech Holding to build Sentinel Safe, technology that will search existing state and federal databases to identify registered sex offenders and delete their profiles from MySpace.

“We are committed to keeping sex offenders off MySpace,” said MySpace’s Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam. “Sentinel Safe will allow us to aggregate all publicly available sex offender databases into a real-time searchable form, making it easy to cross-reference and remove known registered sex offenders from the MySpace community.”

24/7 Vigilance

Sentinel Safe will tap into a sex offender database to get detailed background information on the 550,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. The Sentinel Safe database will include identifiable details of the convicted sex offenders, such as names, ages, physical descriptions including height, weight, eye and hair color, and distinguishing features such as scars and tattoos.

MySpace will employ a 24-hour-a-day dedicated staff to actively monitor the site for convicted sex offenders and remove any matching profiles from the community. MySpace said it would also continue its work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and law enforcement agencies to identify any suspect individuals and assist in investigations.

“This is a serious issue,” B.L. Ochman, president of WhatsNextOnline, told TechNewsWorld, “but [what] you have to look at also is what level of responsibility MySpace has for policing all of this. I think their level of responsibility should include keeping convicted child molesters out. I agree that it makes a lot of sense, but they are not the police and they are not the FBI.”

Taking It One Step Further

MySpace isn’t stopping with technology, though. The community is taking its concerns to Capitol Hill. In an effort to prevent convicted sex offenders from joining online communities, MySpace has been advocating and testifying in favor of federal legislation that would require convicted sex offenders to register all of their e-mail addresses in a national sex offender database.

MySpace has asked Congress to introduce e-mail registration legislation that would make it possible for MySpace and similar communities to block these individuals from registering on their respective sites. With such measures in place, any use of a false or unregistered e-mail address would constitute a violation of the offender’s parole or probation, triggering a return to jail.

“Today’s announcement is a strong step in the right direction, but a gap will still exist in our ability to keep sex offenders off social networking sites until there is legislation that forces sex offenders to use registered e-mail addresses,” Nigam said. “We’re also asking lawmakers in countries where MySpace has established a local community to work with us in identifying similar legislative solutions.”

The Education Arm

Ochman would like to see MySpace take it yet another step further with education. She believes the community’s responsibility should include teaching safety to kids who register.

“MySpace should make it clear to kids that there are predators online and that they have to be careful,” she noted. “I’d rather see them getting together with some self-esteem group for teens and have them talk about how to protect yourself in a way that doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself. Schools should probably be teaching kids about the Internet and how they should protect their identity.”

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