Monday, May 21, 2007

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MySpace.com to Turn Over Information on Sex Offender Profiles to Texas Attorney General

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today ordered MySpace.com to release the names of all convicted sex offenders who have set up online member profiles.

MySpace.com agreed to turn over first and last names of its online users that are registered sex offenders in Texas. MySpace.com will also provide IP addresses, E-mail addresses, and their online profile information. This data will help the Attorney General crack down on sex predators who use the Internet to prey on children.

“By providing this information, MySpace.com is helping law enforcement crack down on online sex predators,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Social networking sites must continue to make their Web sites and content safer for our children. We urge all social networking Web sites to take all necessary steps to keep children safe from the unwanted advances of online predators.”

Attorney General Abbott, a nationally recognized leader with more than 500 sex predator arrests, has repeatedly pressed MySpace.com and other social networking sites to implement definitive safety measures to protect young users of their Web sites from sexually explicit images and unwanted solicitations. Since the push from Attorney General Abbott and other attorneys general, MySpace.com has taken steps to improving safety on its site, including screening profiles for inappropriate content and making certain profiles private.

“The incorrigible nature of sex predators requires public officials, law enforcement, industry leaders and parents across Texas to join together to make the Internet a safer place,” Attorney General Abbott added. “Without meaningful safeguards in place, no child is safe from the unwanted advances of chat room predators.”

The Attorney General, along with state leaders, has also fought to make Texas the toughest state in the nation, creating one of the nation’s toughest versions of “Jessica’s Law”, tightening penalties for Internet predators and providing district attorneys more tools to prosecute child sex crimes.

Last March, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 6, which provides additional tools that will improve law enforcement’s ability to investigate cyber crimes. Under SB 6, authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required to promptly respond to court orders and subpoenas issued by law enforcement. Today, when the Texas House of Representatives debates SB 6, legislators will consider an amendment that would amend SB 6 by expanding its applicability to entities such as MySpace.com. If passed, this provision would further improve the Attorney General’s ability to quickly obtain critical information about cyber predators from ISPs, social networking sites, and other online resources.

Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting online child predators. In 2003, he created the Cyber Crimes Unit, which protects children from online sexual exploitation. The Cyber Crimes Unit and the Fugitive Unit, which locates sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, have combined to arrest more than 500 sex offenders. Cyber Crimes Unit investigators also have traveled to schools and communities statewide to offer educational cyber safety programs.

In May 2006, Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an ICAC Task Force. The Texas Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is one of almost 50 federally funded task forces across the country dedicated to this project.

In July 2006, Abbott was invited by U.S. Congressman Joe Barton to testify at a congressional hearing in Washington on federal legislation limiting access to commercial social networking sites at publicly funded schools and libraries.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott's efforts to crack down on sex predators, visit the Attorney General's Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.