Law would add electronic info to state sex offender registry

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Last month, the social networking Web site MySpace announced it had just deleted the online profiles of 29,000 convicted sex offenders, blocking service for those individuals.

Now, Gov. Matt Blunt, along with Rep. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, would like to ensure the problem never gets that far again. Blunt supports new legislation which would require sex offenders to register any e-mail addresses and online identities they might have with the sex offender registry.

"As a father of three children, one being a teenager, what goes on the Internet is of grave concern to me personally," said Dempsey in a prepared statement.

The proposed legislation involves adding the information to the public database, with the intent of letting parents know if their child is chatting with a convicted sexual predator.

The registries would be monitored by online service providers and social networks such as MySpace, according to a news release from Blunt's office.

Registered sex offenders would then not be allowed to use any e-mail addresses other than those that were properly registered with the state.

In 2006, Virginia became the first state to make the push toward forcing convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and online profiles with authorities.

The question lingers, however, how enforceable the proposed requirements will be and what safeguards will ensure sex offenders are providing the proper information.

"I'm all about knowing where sex offenders are at all times, but I have to question whether that's really going to be that effective," said Tammy Gwaltney, director of the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence.

Gwaltney said she questioned what would stop a registered sex offender from using a friend's e-mail address or simply changing their own.

The legislative package, which will be proposed at the next session, includes a new class D felony of "age misrepresentation with the intent to solicit a minor," to snare online predators.

Joe Laramie, head of the St. Louis police department Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said he'd heard about the proposal but declined to comment until he had actually read a draft of the legislation.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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