More than half of the 141 convicted New Jersey sex offenders with profiles on the social networking Internet site MySpace were on probation or parole and can be subject to tougher prohibitions against surfing the Internet, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced Tuesday.
The names of the registered sex offenders were turned over to the Attorney General by MySpace in response to a subpoena issued May 21 to Fox Interactive Media. The individuals were identified by MySpace through its partnership with Sentinel Tech Holding Corporation, an identity verification firm.
A second subpoena was served on June 29 for information on any sex offenders identified and deleted by MySpace since the state's original request. MySpace said it had identified additional offenders with profiles on their site. The Attorney General will review the list of sex offenders identified by MySpace and use every available means to determine the exact nature of the offenders' activities on the site.
In addition, Milgram said other social networking Web sites will be asked to cross-check their user profiles with lists of publicly available registered sex offenders and provide names of any sex offenders to the Attorney General's office.
"Today, we have the proof in hand to confirm the worst fears of New Jersey's concerned parents and educators; that sex offenders are active on Web sites used by children and teenagers," Milgram said. "The information provided by MySpace is only a first step. It does not mean that all sexual offenders have stopped surfing the Internet. That is why it is important to always exercise caution on social networking sites and never give out personal information. It is doubly important that parents monitor their children's computer habits and open a dialogue with them on the subject.''
The information provided by MySpace included names, e-mail addresses and IP addresses of convicted sex offenders who had registered with state authorities. The popular social networking site turned over approximately 7,000 names of registered sex offenders to law enforcement authorities in all 50 states and said it had deleted those users from its site. Coincidentally, just before the release of the information from MySpace, one of the New Jersey sex offenders was arrested for violating the conditions of parole by accessing the Internet.
According to MySpace records, the 141 New Jersey sex offenders logged onto MySpace 34,000 times during the time they were registered with the networking site, which ranged from a few months to two years. Many individuals logged onto the site hundreds of times. There were 43 MySpace users matched to parolees and another 37 users on probation. The other 61 are registered sex offenders under Megan's Law, but not on parole or probation.
The Attorney General's Office has turned over the information to the State Parole Board and to Probation Services; each will check for violations of the offenders' terms of supervision. The State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit also is reviewing the data for potential use in ongoing investigations. The State Police unit is designated as the state's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Since May 2006, attorneys general from all 50 states have been pushing social networking sites to do a better job protecting children from the threat of sexual predators, as well as guarding against inappropriate content.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children one in seven children in America between the ages of ten and 17 is sexually solicited online. Milgram advises parents to place the computer in a common area, rather than in a child's bedroom, and to monitor the time spent online and the Web sites the child has visited. She also urges parents to talk with their children about the risks associated with social networking sites and ways to stay safe when using the Internet.