Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Internet Predators and Their Prey

**Update: MySpace vs. Their Space

At first, News Corp, which owns MySpace, refused to cooperate, reported Dan Goodin for The Register, because the attorneys had not pursued the proper legal channels for obtaining information via the federal Electronics Communications Act. So, the attorneys acquired the necessary subpoenas.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was quoted as saying, "Our subpoena compels this information right away... Many of these sex offenders have violated their parole or probation by contacting or soliciting children on MySpace." Whether he had evidence of that charge is unknown, but the probability of such violations is high. It's not automatically illegal for RSOs to be on the site; it depends on the terms of their sentencing.

This time, MySpace complied. It turned out that Sentinel had removed the names and profiles of over 7,000 MySpace participants from the site after identifying them as RSOs or other types of violators. (One case, documented by Wired, was a predator who had sexually violated an unconscious person, but had sanitized himself in his online identity into a Christian with a girlfriend.) The list was turned over to the authorities to decide if violations have occurred. Some sex offenders are prohibited from using the Internet for any purpose, while others may not contact children.

While all of this sounds like a step in the right direction, a potential problem is that the corporation does not maintain the removed profiles, only the bare-bones data. Profiles could conceivably serve as evidence in a court case, should an incident occur that inspired criminal charges. A violation would send the offender back to prison, but if MySpace no longer has the record of his or her presence on the site, that could damage the case.

And there's another issue: Shreve points out on Wired.com that this arrangement with Sentinel only affects sex offenders who have registered with their actual information; it counts on criminals to be honest. Those who are quite determined to pursue their criminal goals will find ways around it.

Ideally, authorities would like to see mandatory registration of sex offenders' email address registrations to expedite the identification process and thwart sex offenders in at least some of their online movements.

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