Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Because Nobody Has Two Email Addresses

The Washington Times reports on the latest in feel-good legislation:

State Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said yesterday he plans to propose legislation that would make Virginia the first in the nation to require sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and online names with the state.

Mr. McDonnell said he hopes the measure will help thwart sexual predators from trolling for victims online.

"We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century, it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or [instant messenger] screen names," Mr. McDonnell said.

Social-networking sites have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, providing youngsters with a way to meet new friends worldwide. However, the sites also have given the estimated 50,000 sexual predators online at any given time a new venue to lure children by posing as a teen online.

Mr. McDonnell's proposal goes along with the efforts of the social-networking Web site, which last week said that it is developing software to cross-reference its 130 million users with databases of registered sex offenders.

"The bottom line is that if we can do a match between the state sex-offender registry and a MySpace account, we can block any sex offender from MySpace and keep the Internet safe for kids," Mr. McDonnell said.

The proposed legislation is doesn't even pass the laugh test. It would give politicians a false sense of accomplishment, give parents a false sense of security, and stop only the most stupid predators. Until legislators manage to abolish internet anonymity, predators will remain free to create as many email addresses as well as MySpace accounts that they want. There's nothing to stop a 60-year-old child molester from creating an email address and MySpace account claiming to be 15.
Mr. McDonnell said the new plan is not "foolproof" because convicted sex offenders can sign up under a different name and give false biographical information on the sites.
I'm glad to learn that Mr. McDonnell is not a complete idiot.

Perennial candidate John McCain, however, is worse:

(WaPo) Last week, Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced that they will seek federal legislation next year that would require all sex offenders to submit their e-mail addresses to law enforcement. That information would also be turned over to MySpace.

"Just like in our actual neighborhoods, sex offenders must make themselves known in our virtual neighborhoods as well," Schumer said in a statement.

That would combine the Virginia proposal's ignorance of the internet with the usual Congressional disregard for the role of states in criminal law.

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