Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Attorney General Bob McDonnell takes on internet sexual predators

UPDATE: A comment was left for me regarding this post and it included links to other websites focused on this very issue. I suggest taking a look at this site if you are interested; I too wonder where all of the true Chrsitians have gone. Seems to me that some very hate-filled people have taken their place and are using their name in vain.

All over the country, lawmakers and public officials are taking steps to crack down on sex offenders and sexual predators. While I agree with some of the steps taken and laws put forth, I DO think that in certain instances we are seeing the rise of the nanny state. It is important to remember that a sexual offender can be a person who commits an atrocious and deadly crime (deserves all the punishment they can get, in my opinion) or a person who may have fallen victim to being charged for dating someone too young for them (in these cases, it can be very hard to decide on a fair punishment). Virginia's own attorney general, Bob McDonnell, has weighed in on the issue:
In Virginia, Attorney General Bob McDonnell said Monday that he would seek legislation to require convicted sex offenders there to register their online identities with the state to help MySpace and other online teen hangouts more easily block access.

Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., announced plans for similar federal legislation last week, but theirs would apply only to those on probation or parole. McDonnell's plan for Virginia would apply to all convicted sex offenders.

Parents, school administrators and law-enforcement authorities have grown increasingly worried that teens are at risk on MySpace and other social-networking sites, which provide tools for messaging, sharing photos and creating personal pages known as profiles.

Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, applauded the Virginia announcement.

"This legislation is an important recognition that the Internet has become a community as real as any other neighborhood and is in need of similar safeguards," Nigam said.

MySpace also announced plans last week to develop technology to help block convicted sex offenders by checking profiles against government registries, but the News Corp.-owned site's ability to do so is limited by the fact that users do not have to use their real names.

Nationwide, there are more than 550,000 registered sex offenders. Virginia counts 13,000 of them.

"We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or IM screen names," McDonnell said.
Here's the thing: I agree with McDonnell SOMEWHAT, but I have some problems with his decision. First of all, there really is no reason to require ALL sexual offenders to register. Senator Schumer is certainly taking the more conservative road here; I think it makes a lot more sense to go after those only on probation or parole. To demand registration of ALL offenders actually seems very "liberal" of McDonnell, and although he has good intentions I simply think he is going too far. Again, we are teetering on the brink of becoming too much of a nanny state, and it is surprising to me that the Republican party is so enamored with creating BIGGER government. Secondly, this seems like it is bound to be a very difficult and very expensive plan to implement. As many of us know, it is very easy to "hide" yourself on the internet, and I cannot imagine how they plan on making this plan work well and efficiently. I guess that remains to be seen.

All in all, while I applaud with the efforts of Attorney General Bob McDonnell, I think he needs to think long and hard about how far he wants to go with this.


Blogger Catzmaw said...

Although the intentions appear to be good, I have to wonder at the impact on innocent family members of convicted sex offenders who share internet addresses with them, not to mention that it looks to me to be impossible to enforce (I could set up ten addresses today and change them tomorrow), and would probably promote more evasive maneuvering in the part of those bent on causing no good.

Also, you're right, Jaime, that the sex offender registration laws tend to be a catch-all type of thing ranging from those who were out preying on kids and those who got caught up with someone too much younger than themselves. What people do not understand is that much of the law as it pertains to anyone under the age of 16 is structured so that a mistake does not invalidate the charge. In other words, some 18 year old guy meets a girl at a party who tells him that she's 17, starts a sexual relationship with her, and then finds that she's 14 or 13. There's your statutory rape and he's a sex offender.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Phriendly Jaime said...

The point you make about the email accounts is what worries me. The program would be very expensive to implement, and it really would be impossible to control. How do we stop sex offenders from using computers in public places, or at a friend's home? How do we know that they have registered EVERY SINGLE NAME AND ADDRESS?

We don't.

As for the different types of crimes and how they are defined, it really is a problem. Lawmakers were very quick to take the liberty to label many different people as "sex offenders"; a stigma that will stay with them forever. Sorry, but the fact is, some of these "offenders" may be questionable characters who have made interesting decisions, but they should not all be lumped into the same category.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:34 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

This is an atrocious idea. There are more effective things he could be doing to protect kids from sex offenders if that's his aim. Like you said, it would be EXTREMELY easy for them to get around this.

Here's a thought, why don't parents actually monitor what their kids do on the internet instead of relying on the government to do it.

10:18 PM  

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