MySpace, Facebook Unfriend 3,500 Sex Offenders

Andrew Cuomo, by Flickr user saebaryo used under Creative Commons license.

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As long as there have been screennames, there have been perverts with screennames. If you happen to be a registered sex offender in New York State, you can bet the Attorney General’s office is watching yours like a hawk.

Despite the internet’s reputation as the last bastion of anonymity and a safe haven for nefarious things, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that his office has wiped 3,500 sex offenders from social networking platforms MySpace and Facebook. Or as he put it, “purge(d) them from their online worlds.”

Under the new Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), New York offenders must register their email addresses and usernames, in addition to their physical addresses with the state. So far, only Facebook and MySpace have agreed to help the state, but that’s kind of like saying only Apple and Microsoft have signed on.

It’s unclear from the attorney general’s statement whether the sweep actually caught anybody attempting to do something illegal, but the e-STOP law is pretty stiff. Depending on offenders’ parole status and the nature of their crimes, some offenders are barred from ever opening a profile. Which to someone like me who came of age in the aughts, sounds like the best way to keep the online Humberts and Lolitas of the modern world apart, and also just a teensy tiny bit Orwellian. 

If social networking is a privilege you think sex offenders should universally forfeit  (and I’m not necessarily disagreeing), consider this: only about 8,000 of New York State’s nearly 30,000 sex offenders are registered under Cuomo’s internet database. If, as America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh said in the press release, “social networking websites have become the private hunting grounds for sexual predators,” someone might want to start, you know, collecting those screennames.

What do you think? Should more states take New York’s no-tolerance line? Is purging an offender’s Facebook profile going too far? In a world as slippery as the internet, will offenders just find a work-around? 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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