On Thursday, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott revealed the results of the nation's first large-scale crackdown on registered sex offenders using MySpace.com.
North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper and colleagues in seven other states were the ones who jump-started the process — they asked for data on how many registered sex offenders are using the site and where they live. The company said such efforts were required under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act before it could legally release the data.
"Different states are going about it different ways," said Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for Cooper, who filed a "civil investigative demand" for the information.
How could MySpace find sex offenders on its site when anyone can set up as many profiles as they want? As Reuters wrote Thursday: MySpace commissioned background verification firm Sentinel Safe Tech Holdings Corp. to create a national database of sex offenders last year, after reports that some of its teenage users were abducted by sex predators.
"We partnered with Sentinel Tech to build this technology to remove registered sex offenders from our site and to ensure that law enforcement could arrest those who were violating their probation or parole," MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a statement.
MySpace agreed to provide the information to all states after some members of the group filed subpoenas or took other legal actions to demand it.
In the two-week operation in Texas, operation, officers investigated and arrested seven previously convicted sex offenders who had online profiles. Some of the offenders who had activated MySpace accounts were already in violation of parole or probation requirements, which specifically prohibited them from using the Internet.
The attorney general would not say whether any of the men had actually approached children through MySpace or tried to engage in a dialogue with youngsters.
After early criticism that the company wasn't doing enough to safeguard its underage users from harm and danger, News Corp — the company that owns MySpace, began running ads that read: "1 in 5 kids online is sexually solicited. Online predators know what they're doing. Do you?" They are from of a campaign launched two years ago by the Ad Council and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
to hear Larry Magid's podcast interview of Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer of MySpace corporate parent Fox Interactive.
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MySpace is currently the world's sixth-most popular English Web site and the third-most popular Web site in the United States, according to Alexa Internet. It accounts for about 80 percent of visits to online social-networking Web sites and has more than 100 million users.
The minimum age to register an account on MySpace is 14, and profiles with ages registered as 14 or 15 years are automatically set to "private" — having a private profile is an option for older users, too. That means only user-approved people can see the user's full profile.