Update: Some of these sex offenders are showing up on Facebook.
Responding to a subpoena from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, MySpace today is handing over the names of 90,000 registered sex offenders who have been identified and blocked from the social networking site over the past two years.
Kicking sex offenders off the site has been a big priority for MySpace. A year ago, it struck a child protection deal with 49 states, which put in place a series of safety measures such as policing the site for predatory content and removing any known sex offenders (which it had already been doing on its own). As a result of its efforts, MySpace says that 36 percent fewer registered sex offenders are now trying to become members.
The new disclosures come amid claims and counterclaims of just how big a problem sexual predators are on MySpace, and social networks in general. For instance, a Hong Kong company being sued by MySpace recently hired a private investigator who claims to have found sex offenders still active on the site, despite MySpace’s attempts to remove them. While a report sponsored by MySpace and other companies found the threat to children on social networks overblown.
The KIDS Act of 2007, which was signed into law last October, requires that sex offenders register their real email and IM accounts with the National Sex Offender Registry. Similar legislation has also been passed in 20 states, making it a parole violation not to comply. This information is supposed to help social networks like MySpace and Facebook keep registered sex offenders off their sites.
MySpace uses software it helped to develop called Sentinal SAFE to run its member profiles against a database of more than 700,000 known sex offenders. The technology ties together all the various state sex offender registries. It compares 120 different points of identification—including name, date of birth, photo, scars, and tattoos—to make a positive match and block those members from registering again. The Sentinal software is how MySpace identified those 90,000 blocked sex offenders.