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US sex offenders to be banned from social networking for the first time

Sex offenders will be banned from using social networking sites under a law proposed in the US state of New York. The proposed law would allow the release of offenders' details to social networking site operators to keep offenders from using them.13 Feb 2008

New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo has received the backing of the district attorneys of the state's five boroughs for his proposal, which would bar certain kinds of sex offenders from using social networking sites. No such law currently exists in the US.

The ban would apply to people whose victim was a minor, or who used the internet to commit the offence or if the person is the highest category of offender, a level 3 offender.

The law would require these people to register all of their online identities, internet accounts and email addresses with the authorities as a condition of their probation or parole.

It would also allow the Division of Criminal Justice Services to release offenders' online identities, including email addresses, to the operators of social networking sites and "certain other online services" in order to have those users screened and banned from the services. They would also have to tell the police if those identities were used.

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

The New York Senate passed the proposed law this week, and the Assembly will debate it next. The Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has said he supports the proposal.