Online Sex Offenders May Be Penalized
By Harriet Steinberg
Feb 4, 2007 - 4:45:00 PM

LOS ANGELES —To prevent sex offenders from prowling on cyberspace for young victims, a group of bipartisan lawmakers recently introduced a legislation that would require sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and make them available to social networking sites. This proposal would also make it a crime for adults to lie about their age in pursuit of sex with a minor.

The new proposal, called Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act, is a follow-up on the legislation that requires sex offenders released from prison to register their home addresses with authorities.

“Just as we protect kids in physical neighborhoods, we have to protect them in online communities,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is one of the sponsors. Senator John McCaine (R-Ariz.) is also a sponsor of this proposal along with two other lawmakers.

This new act was named in memory of Adam Walsh, the son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh. It is also in memory of other victims whose families are suffering from the crimes of these predators.

Backers of this new proposal feel that it will receive a great deal of support, although some show concern over an individual’s privacy., the most visited social networking site, endorsed the legislation and already is using data from existing registry to try to identify sexual predators.
laptop_1.jpg, another popular social networking site, also backs the bill.

The bill would require convicted sex offenders to register any e-mail address or instant messaging with the National Sex Offender Registry. Failure to comply would result in a maximum 10-year prison term and constitute a parole violation that would send any released felon on supervised release back to prison.

If internet users misrepresent their age in order to engage in sexual activity with a minor, it would be a federal crime and there would be a maximum of a 20-year prison sentence.

Sponsors admit that convicted sex offenders could create a new e-mail address, but hopefully the stiff penalties would lead many to comply to the rules.

One of the lawmakers admitted that maybe you can’t force any of them off the internet or change their ways, but if you increase the penalties and increase the way you track their movements, it can help some child from being a victim.

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