Cuomo urges networking sites to check for predators

More than 4,300 convicted sex offenders have been knocked off of Internet social networking sites, and state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo is asking 14 more sites to check for predators.

“The problem is worse than you think,” he told a group of seniors gathered in the Kenmore East High School library for his press conference this morning.

Cuomo championed the Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act — e-STOP– that requires convicted sex offenders in New York to register their e-mail addresses, chat-room names and other identifying information with the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Failing to do so is a felony.

Those addresses and names have been given to 15 social networking sites, and 4,336 registered sex offenders and their 11,721 profiles have been thrown off the networks. That’s more than half the number of convicted sex offenders for which the state has Internet addresses, the attorney general said. The accounts of 160 sex offenders from Erie County and 75 in Niagara County were among those removed.

“I had no idea the problem was going to be that big,” he said.

The state first went to Facebook and MySpace last year, and discovered more than 3,500 sex offenders had accounts. Another 13 social networking sites were contacted, and they removed another 803 sex offenders, Cuomo said.

He is is sending letters to another 14 sites that cater primarily to children, such as BarbieGirls, Build-a-Bearville and Webkinz, asking them to screen their rolls using e-STOP information.

“We’re going to try to use the technology to actually help find and remove the sexual predators,” he said.

It’s difficult to detect on-line sexual predators because of the anonymity provided by cyberspace, Cuomo said.

Cuomo answered several questions from students. Speaking with reporters following the press conference, he declined to end speculation about a campaign for governor.

“It’s early in the year. The elections are at the end of the year. Between now and then,” he said when asked when he would make an announcement on whether he is officially in the race for governor.



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