A law you can’t enforce is just political hot air

Another news item from the “Ideas that sounded good to someone who didn’t think it all the way through” file:

Senators propose to track sex offenders online
Thu Dec 7, 3:11 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators said on Thursday they would introduce legislation that would potentially protect users of popular social networking sites like News Corp’s MySpace from registered sex offenders.

New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer and Arizona Republican John McCain, in a press release, said they planned to introduce a bill at the beginning of the 110th Congress in January that would require registered sex offenders to submit their active email addresses to law enforcement.

The legislation would enable social networking sites like MySpace to cross-check new members against a database of registered sex offenders and ensure that predators are unable to sign up for the service.

Under the proposed legislation, any sex offender who submits a fraudulent email could face prison.

Earlier this week, MySpace said it would offer in the next 30 days a technology to identify and block convicted sex offenders from the popular online social network. It struck a deal with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp., an expert in background verification, to build the new feature.

The top online social network, which has a large following of teens attracted to its music and entertainment offerings, has also been used by adults seeking sex with underage users.

“This legislation combined with our announcement earlier this week of plans to build the first real-time searchable national sex offender database will make the Internet a far safer place for all,” MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigan said in a statement.

Under the proposed bill, registered sex offenders would be required to give an email address to their probation or parole officers. Any offender caught using an unregistered email address would be in violation of probation or parole terms and face a return to prison.

According to MySpace, there are 550,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. The company said the new service will be the first national database that brings together about 46 state sex offender registries. 

Now, just what do these Senators think sex offenders intent on finding their next victims are going to do with this law? It makes about as much sense as gun registry legislation: Those who have nothing to hide will comply, and those who do have something to hide will not. Before legislators start to draft laws governing internet behavior, it would be nice if they educated themselves just a little bit on how things work on the ‘net.

Throw-away email accounts are easier to obtain than fake ID’s for high school students. And, as every study ever conducted on deterrence has clearly shown, the threat of harsh penalties has no meaning to individuals who don’t expect to get caught.

Worse, the promise of such legislation may give parents and children alike a false sense of security. It would be far better to spend the money and time in primary and elementary school programs educating our children on the dangers of trusting strangers on the net.

sex offenders, internet behavior, email, MySpace, social networking, predators, internet safety, legislation, lawmakers, laws, children, parental supervision

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