The Monday NY Blawg Round Up
Texas Deposition With Joe Jamail

Should Sex Offenders Be Required to Register Their Email Addresses?

Senators Schumer and McCain think so.  (Hat tip:  New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library).  According to this article, the senators recently announced that they planned to introduce legislation that would require registered sex offenders to submit their active email addresses to law enforcement:

The legislation would allow online companies, including social networking Web sites, to cross-check new members against a database of registered sex offenders to ensure that predators are unable to sign up for the service...

Under the planned legislation, registered sex offenders would be required to log an e-mail address with their probation or parole officers. Any offender caught using an unregistered e-mail address would be in violation of probation or parole terms and face a return to prison. Senators Schumer and McCain are also working together on other provisions in an effort to better protect children online.

As many of you know, I've been conflicted in the past regarding the various measures that have been enacted to monitor convicted sex offenders.  And, not surprisingly, I find myself in the same boat yet again. 

My knee jerk reaction was that this measure was too invasive.  However, after giving it some thought, I've decided that the threat of online predators in a serious one and the interests in preventing the victimization of online users, particularly children, likely outweighs the minimally invasive nature of an email registration requirement.

That being said, the penalty that might result due to a single inadvertent lapse in registering an email address--a parole or probation violation--seems a bit excessive to me.  This is especially so given that many of us have any number of email addresses and it's hard to keep track of them all.  I'm thinking that there should be a "three strikes and you're out" provision, just to give a bit of leeway. 

It's an interesting issue, however, and the senators have proposed a novel way of tracking internet use, which has become a popular avenue for sexual predators.  It's a start.


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This is tying the barn door shut with thread after the horse is long gone. It's the wrong solution to the wrong problem and it won't work anyway.

How exactly does anyone propose to track and verify this information? What happens if someone's family member, friend, neighbor, WiFi wardriver, etc., using the same network connection (not even necessarily the same physical computer) logs into (let's say) MySpace? Conversely, how does anyone propose tracking every possible computer a person might use and verifying what use they make of it? The Big Brother implications of this, for the hundreds of millions of Americans who are NOT sex offenders, are staggering.

And even if this could somehow be done (and done without invading the privacy and infringing on the civil rights of completely innocent people in the process) the biggest problem (media hype to the contrary) is not the 15% or so of sex offenders who re-offend; it's the vast majority of them who have not been caught yet. This will do nothing to stop them. The next logical step is to make anonymity a crime; make me a felon for writing this comment. And we though the USSR fell 17 years ago?

The world (and the politicians) need to face the fact that it is not possible to childproof the Internet. It was never designed or intended to be a playground for unsupervised children. It cannot be made into one without destroying not only its purpose but its power to transform the world we live in, its power to bring freedom to the world.

You can't childproof the world. You have to worldproof your child. No one else can shoulder that responsibility for you.

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