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Keeping the next 6,000 sex offenders off MySpace

We need better policies for tracking registered sex offenders on social-networking sites like MySpace.

While I don't want to suggest that people can't change (they can), and that mistakes should be forever branded on people like a scarlet "A," I find it disturbing that MySpace, which previously threw 90,000 sex offenders from its site (29,000 in 2007), recently dragged another 6,000 off, according to TechDirt. Facebook, for its part, has dumped 5,500 from its site since May 2008.

Why don't MySpace and Facebook screen for criminal histories before allowing someone on the site, or require some sort of notice of conviction for sex offenses, rather than dusting up after the fact?

Arguably, this would be easier and less painful than state off-line policies related to housing regulations for sex offenders, which The Wall Street Journal chronicled earlier this week. Such policies significantly impact sex offenders' day-to-day lives with tight housing restrictions, among other things.

Tighter controls online would protect children with little increased burden to the sex offender, which strikes me as the ideal balance. Given that most registered sex offenders have little likelihood of recidivism - The Wall Street Journal's report noted that only 90 of the 15,800 registered sex offenders in Georgia are classified as "predators" - I'm all for a low-impact approach that protects children without unduly burdening the lives of the past offenders.

Whatever a state's offline policies on sex offenders may be, pre-filtering applications for accounts with MySpace, Facebook, and other social-networking sites does little to affect the quality of a registered sex offender's life but arguably helps to secure children while using such services. The burden is so low, why haven't we done it yet?


Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.