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Post date: February 12 2008

District Attorneys From All Five New York City Boroughs Endorse Attorney General Cuomo's New "e-stop" Legislation And Its Protections Against Sexual Predators Online

NEW YORK CITY (February 12, 2008) – New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes, Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown, Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson and Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan today announced their support for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s new e-STOP legislation and its protections against sexual predators online.

The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), introduced last week with bipartisan support in the Senate and Assembly, is the nation’s most comprehensive legislation to deal with the threat of sexual predators on the Internet. It also creates the country’s first mandatory ban on sexual predators from social networking Web sites.

Attorney General Cuomo said, “Existing laws protecting children from sexual predators have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology. Government’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens, and e-STOP will be effective at helping prevent sexual predators from using the Internet to victimize our children.”

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said, “Attorney General Cuomo deserves great credit for taking the lead towards the passage of this bill which could serve as a national model. The e-STOP bill will be a significant new tool in fighting those cyber-predators who seek to victimize young people who are using the Internet for legitimate social networking. Our young people deserve any protection the law can provide them.”

Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “The legislation proposed by the Attorney General offers a smart, simple and direct way to further protect our children. It curtails use of the Internet by convicted sex offenders – and it provides practical ways for online providers to better screen and monitor their sites. It makes a great deal of sense and it has my wholehearted support.

Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson said, “While the internet can be an extremely useful tool for acquiring knowledge it can also be a dangerous weapon in the hands of child predators. I am grateful to Attorney General Cuomo for providing additional protection for innocent and vulnerable children who, by the tens of thousands, use the internet every day.”

New York County District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said, “New technologies require new laws.    The e-STOP legislation will restrict sex offenders' use of the Internet and help keep sexual predators out of social networking websites.  This legislation, if enacted, will help make our children safe.  It is an important step forward.”

Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan said, “By compelling convicted sex offenders to register their screen names and e-mail addresses we will have an effective method to monitor their on-line activities. My particular concern is to protect our children from those predators who use social networking websites to find their victims.  E-Stop not only helps law enforcement but it assists social networking services such as My Space and Face Book patrol their sites and protect their users.”

Passage of e-STOP would prohibit sexual predators from accessing social networking sites and restrict their Internet usage in a variety of other ways. It would require sex offenders to register all of their instant message screen names and any other online identifiers, and would give access to that information to companies with social networking Web sites. Those companies would then be able to prescreen and block access by convicted sex offenders.

Also, sex offenders have been shown to have recidivism rates far higher than those who commit other types of crimes.

According to the state Division for Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), there are 1,160 registered sex offenders in New York County, 1,790 in Kings County, 1,070 in Queens County, 1,441 in Bronx County and 249 in Richmond County.

Also according to DCJS, New York State has more than 25,000 registered sex offenders.

  • 9,594 are level 2 registered sex offenders (moderate risk to commit another sex crime).
  • 6,528 are level 3 registered sex offenders (high risk to commit another sex crime and a threat to public safety exists).

The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators (e-STOP) Act:

  • 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 web sites, 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.
  • Requires that sex offenders register all of their Internet accounts and Internet identifiers (email 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 (email addresses and designations used for chat, instant messaging, social networking or other similar Internet communication) to social networking sites and certain other online services, that 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.

Attorney General Cuomo has led recent groundbreaking efforts to protect users of the Internet from sexual predators.

Last spring, he worked with other state attorneys general and MySpace, a popular social networking site, to share with law enforcement authorities the identities of registered sex offenders who they had found and removed from the site.

In October, Attorney General Cuomo and the popular online community Facebook announced a new model to enforce safeguards aimed at protecting its network members, especially children and adolescents, from sexual predators, obscene content and harassment. The agreement was reached after serious deficiencies were found in the site’s safety controls and investigators posing as young teenagers were sent online sexual advances from adults within days of setting up their accounts.

Both MySpace and Facebook, with tens of millions of users each, have taken significant steps to protect their users and supported efforts to create new laws protecting all Internet users from sexual predators. Attorney General Cuomo applauds their initiative in taking industry leadership roles with respect to protecting the online community. Both companies agreed the new registry information e-STOP creates would help them be better able to block sex offenders from their sites.

Attorney General Cuomo has also advised parents to take preventive steps to keep their children safe and issued tips on How to Occupy Space on Social Networking Websites Safely:

Be cautious about sharing your personal information online that can be used to locate you offline. This includes your screen name, personal photos, hobbies, social security numbers, address, phone number, bank or credit card number, and for children, the schools they attend. Remember, websites for underage users are not permitted to request personal information without a parent's permission.

Do not share information online that you would not share offline – There are no “Takebacks.” Once information is posted online, it cannot be removed.  If deleted or modified, older versions continue to exist online. Share information that is appropriate for the public. Remember, colleges and potential employers may rely on a social networking website to check you out.

Use Privacy Settings to restrict access. Social networking websites provide a variety of privacy settings that can restrict access to personal information. These settings block unknown individuals from breaking into your account and misusing your profile and information.

Install safeguarding programs with monitoring or filtering capabilities. Your online service provider may offer these services. Setting up a monitoring product is like a having a camera in the corner of your local bank – it can help collect evidence for law enforcement and trace a predator, if necessary.

Watch out for unsolicited messages and emails. Do not respond to emails or download attachments you are not expecting. Some viruses can “spoof” the name and email address of friends and fool users into an unwanted online relationship.

Beware of inappropriate or threatening online behavior.  Risky online behavior can lead to cyber crimes. It may start with an online stranger following you into chat rooms, breaking into your account, abusing your personal information, sending you sexual solicitations or signing you up for porn sites and IM.  Pay attention to these predators. Websites do not have the capability to verify ages or information of their users. 

If in doubt, report it! If you believe that a predator is communicating with you or your child, you must report it. In every case where a child is molested or killed by an Internet sexual predator, law enforcement find messages sent to the predator by parents threatening to report them. Do not hesitate to report it.