Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s push to get the legislature to require social networking sites like MySpace and possibly MyLeftNutmeg to verify users’ ages will be replaced by legislation that would require a convicted sex offender to register their email addresses with the Department of Public Safety.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said Thursday at a press conference that this new legislation which will be introduced as a strike-most amendment does not infringe on the rights of citizens who engage in social networking online.
“It focuses exclusively on sexual predators,” he said.
The legislation should have all the political bloggers in the state breathing a sigh of relief.
Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said it only makes sense that Megan’s Law would be extended into cyberspace.
Lawlor said the legislation sets up a process for MySpace to contact the Connecticut State Police with the information that a sex offender is using their site. He said the state police can then get a court order to give them the name of the person from the suspected email address and investigate further.
MySpace.com, one of the largest online social networking sites, also supports the legislation.
Chief Security Officer for MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam, said his company has hired a team of engineers to develop software to identify registered sex offenders and this legislation will significantly expedite the process to keep them off the site.
John Cardillo of Sentinel, the company that created the software program for MySpace, said if a sex offender sets up an anonymous email account it can use over 100 criteria to identify them and determine if they’re a registered sex offender. He said one of the criteria they can use is facial recognition. He said MySpace has an internal tool that compares facial recognition information to the photo provided in a MySpace profile.
He said the likelihood of misidentification is slim because the software only searches the database for registered sex offenders.
The legislation also makes it a class C felony with a prison term of up to 10 years, for any person that misrepresents their age to entice a minor on the Internet to engage in sexual activity. And it makes computer repairmen mandated reporters.
Nigam said Virgina, Kentucky, and Arizona have passed legislation already and similar legislation is pending in 13 other states.
But Blumenthal is still hooked on mandating social networking sites to use age verification software.
“I have strongly supported the proposal to require convicted sex offenders to register email addresses and other Internet information with the state,” Blumenthal said in a press release this afternoon.
“This step would be historic – but this one step alone is insufficient. Many predators have never been convicted of any sexual offense, and many more use aliases and fake information. Against this threat, we need age verification, identity checks and other measures to protect children on social networking sites,” Blumenthal said.
But both Nigam and Cardillo said that there’s no viable age verification software available in the marketplace.