Attorney General Cuomo Announces Thousands Of Sex Offenders Purged From Facebook And Myspace In First Sweep Under State's New "e-stop" Law

NEW YORK, NY (December 1, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today announced that more than 3,500 registered New York state sex offenders have been purged from social networking sites Facebook and MySpace in the first database sweep since the state’s new Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (“e-STOP”) went into effect.

At the same time, many other social networking sites remain slow at adopting available new protections against sexual predators online, and Cuomo’s office today sent letters urging them to take action now to similarly purge sex offenders from their sites.

Under the new e-STOP law, which was authored by Cuomo, Facebook was able to identify and disable accounts linked to 2,782 registered New York sex offenders, and MySpace was able to identify and disable accounts linked to 1,796 sex offenders. Some registered sex offenders were linked to accounts on both sites, leaving a total of 3,533 individuals purged from Facebook and/or MySpace during the sweep. New York State has more than 8,100 sex offenders who have registered e-mails with the state. That means over 43% of those sex offenders have identified accounts linked to Facebook and/or MySpace.

Information about the accounts is now being shared with law enforcement authorities. To date, Facebook and MySpace are the only social networking sites that have sought access to the state’s new registry of sex offenders’ Internet information made available through e-STOP.

Under e-STOP - the nation’s most comprehensive law to enhance protections from sexual predators on the Internet - many sexual predators are banned outright from using social networking sites on the Internet while on probation or parole. Also, convicted sex offenders must register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names, and other Internet identifiers with the state. That information is then made available to social networking sites so they can purge potential predators from their online worlds.

“We created e-STOP to help put an end to sexual predators using the Internet as a tool to prey on the innocent,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Facebook and MySpace are successfully using e-STOP to help make the Internet safer, and it’s time for all social networking sites to do their part to keep others from being senselessly victimized.”

e-STOP, which went into effect last year, was the first law of its kind requiring convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and other online identifiers with the New York State Sex Offender Registry, among other conditions. The law:

  • Requires that sex offenders register all of their Internet accounts and Internet identifiers (e-mail addresses and designations used for chat, instant messaging, social networking, or other similar Internet communication) with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
  • Authorizes the Division of Criminal Justice Services to release state sex offender Internet identifiers to social networking sites and certain other online services, which may be used to prescreen or remove sex offenders from using the site’s services and notify law enforcement authorities and other government officials of potential violations of law and threats to public safety.
  • Requires, as a condition of probation or parole, mandatory restrictions on a sex offender’s access to the Internet where the offender’s victim was a minor, the Internet was used to commit the offense, or the offender was designated a level 3 (highest level) offender. Such offenders would be banned from accessing social networking websites, accessing pornographic materials, communicating with anyone for the purpose of promoting sexual relations with a minor, and communicating, in most circumstances, with anyone under the age of 18.

John Walsh, co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and host of “America’s Most Wanted,” said, “Social networking websites have become the private hunting grounds for sexual predators and they often use the safety and anonymity of the Internet to groom their next victims. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo and the State of New York for setting the national standard for states to keep these vicious predators off of social networking sites. Attorney General Cuomo continues to be a very loud voice for the safety of the citizens of New York State - especially its children. It cannot be reinforced enough that with this legislation, New York sets the gold standard for other states to follow.”

Ted Ullyot, Vice President and General Counsel at Facebook, said, “Nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of our users, and we are proud to be working with Attorney General Cuomo to make the Internet safer for everyone, especially children. Ensuring online safety requires cooperation between industry, policymakers, parents, and teachers. With Attorney General Cuomo’s leadership, New York has become a model for this type of partnership - by making available the nation’s most complete, most useful, and most accessible data to help the effort to keep registered sex offenders off social networking sites. Facebook will continue to look for innovative approaches, both internally and in cooperation with law enforcement, to screen, block, and help prosecute anyone who would attempt to misuse our service to harm others.”

MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said, “We applaud and support Attorney General Cuomo’s leadership in his ground breaking use of e-STOP to make the Internet a safer place. MySpace utilized e-STOP to complement technology we had already put in place to remove registered sex offenders from our community as part of a comprehensive approach to protecting Internet users from predators. We look forward to working with Attorney General Cuomo to encourage other sites to follow our lead in protecting teens online.”

Laura A. Ahearn, L.M.S.W., Executive Director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, said, “Parental controls alone are not going to stop sexual predators from trolling the Internet in search of unsuspecting children, that’s why we need strong laws to protect them. Attorney General Cuomo’s proactive e-STOP legislation is an effective tool and the removal of thousands of offenders from sites frequented by children will help prevent sexual victimization.”

Michael Polenberg, Co-Chair for the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s pursuance of this issue is a welcome addition to our efforts to protect children from sexual predators. His e-STOP measure is working by purging offenders from social networking sites that are frequented by children and minors. I applaud this successful measure.”

Parry Aftab, a nationally renowned lawyer specializing in Internet privacy and security law and founder of wiredsafety.org, said, “Attorney General Cuomo has shown effective and innovative leadership on this issue. We need to make sure that sexual predators are monitored and kept far away from vulnerable children. I am glad that we have Attorney General Cuomo as a partner in this fight and look forward to continuing to work with him to make the Internet a safer place for our communities.”

A. Jane McEwen, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault said, “I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for shepherding this law. The removal of thousands of sexual predators from online social networking sites is a positive step in the right direction and we look forward to continuing to work with Attorney General Cuomo’s Office to protect innocent victims.”

Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said, “With the elimination of these sexual predators from social networking sites, Attorney General Cuomo’s legislation has indeed delivered real results to protect children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is proud to once again partner with Attorney General Cuomo’s Office to help make the Internet a safer place.”

Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell, who also serves as commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), said, “The Attorney General’s e-STOP legislation provides a highly effective tool to keep children safe in cyberspace. DCJS is working closely with the Attorney General’s Office, Facebook, and MySpace to remove sex offenders who are accessing social networking sites. Our goal is to prevent dangerous sex offenders from terrorizing children online.”

Robert Maccarone, State Director of Probation and Correctional Alternatives (DPCA), said, “I am proud to partner with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O’Donnell on this public safety effort. We must do all we can to ensure that children and other vulnerable populations are protected from those who wish to harm them. Through the cooperation and collaboration of a number of government entities - including DPCA, the Division of Parole, the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Department of Law and working with local probation departments, parole, the judiciary, and other public officials - we are succeeding in promoting greater offender accountability and making the internet safer for everyone, especially all children."

Andrea W. Evans, chairwoman and CEO of the New York State Division of Parole, said, “Through the enactment of the e-STOP legislation, we gained a valuable tool for restricting dangerous sex offenders from accessing websites where they can prey upon children. Attorney General Cuomo, the Legislature and Governor Paterson have shown great leadership and vision by creating safeguards aimed at protecting minors from sexual predators. This legislation effectively addresses sex offender supervision needs in an environment where changing technology creates opportunities to victimize unsuspecting minors.”

Attorney General Cuomo’s office and DCJS are working with other law enforcement agencies, including state parole and probation officials, in taking appropriate action against offenders who violate their terms and conditions of release by accessing the Internet in prohibited ways.

Sex offenders recently removed from Facebook and MySpace reside in all regions throughout the state. A complete county-by-county listing is at the end of this release:

According to DCJS, New York State has more than 29,000 registered sex offenders: 11,065 are level 1 registered offenders (lowest risk of repeat offense); 10,604 are level 2 registered offenders (moderate risk of repeat offense); 7,417 are level 3 registered sex offenders (high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists). There are a total of approximately 627,000 registered sex offenders in the United States.

Attorney General Cuomo has made protecting children from online predators a top priority. In addition to creating e-STOP, Cuomo has also secured agreements with every major Internet Service Provider in New York State, including Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, AOL, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision, in which they agreed for the first time to block access to child pornography newsgroups, a major forum for illegal images of child sexual abuse and child pornography, and also to purge their servers of child pornography websites identified by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Coordination between the Attorney General’s office and DCJS, the Parole Board, the Division of Probation, Facebook, and MySpace is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Karen A. Geduldig and Darcy M. Goddard, under the supervision Special Deputy Chief of Staff Mitra Hormozi.

Registered New York State sex offenders purged from Facebook and MySpace under e-STOP, by county:

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