AOL, Google and Yahoo Join the Hunt for Online Sex Offenders

AOL, Google, and Yahoo are teaming up with New York's Attorney General to identify the sex offenders lurking on their social networking sites and take them offline. The online giants will search the millions of members in the databases of 13 different networking sites for the e-mail addresses linked to 8,100 sex offenders.

"Every time a social network goes up and attracts young people you're also attracting those who would prey on young people," said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "It's one of the major challenges of law enforcement going forward."

Social networking giants MySpace and Facebook have already purged 3,500 registered sex offenders from their rolls in cooperation with Cuomo's office. More than 40 percent of those registered sex offenders in New York with known e-mail addresses were on Facebook or MySpace – meaning many were violating their parole or probation, said Cuomo.

However, some social networking sites are not participating in the search for registered sex offenders, including Friendster, which has more than 115 million users, most of them in Asia. Phone calls to Friendster's corporate offices for comment were not immediately returned.

"Why you wouldn't run the list of registered sex offenders against your website totally boggles my imagination," said Cuomo.

Other sites that are not participating include eSpin.com, Habbo.com and LiveJournal.com.

The agreement with Yahoo, Google and AOL affects 13 social networking sites. Google owns Orkut.com and Yahoo owns Flickr.com, while AOL owns the other 11 sites -- Classmates.com, Flixster.com, Bebo.com, Stickam.com, BlackPlanet.com, Fotolog.com, Hi5.com, MyLife.com, Multiply.com, Tagged.com and Imeem.com. Registered sex offenders with accounts on those sites will have their memberships purged.

The push to get the state's sex offenders offline was enabled by the state's recently enacted Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP). Under e-STOP, convicted sex offenders are required to register their online addresses and screen names with the state. That information can be sent to social networking sites to make sure New York's convicted sex offenders sex are not violating the terms of their parole or probation that limit online interactions.

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