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State AGs to MySpace: Turn over sex offender data

Eight state attorneys general request the site provide details on members who are registered sex offenders and explain how they are dealt with.

Eight state attorneys general have authored a letter to requesting that the social-networking site turn over data pertaining to registered sex offenders who use the service.

The signers represent the states of Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the letter, dated Monday, the attorneys wrote that they are "gravely concerned that sexual predators are using MySpace to lure children into face-to-face encounters and other dangerous activities." They cited estimates from Sentinel Tech Holding that suggest there may be "thousands" of registered sex offenders with MySpace profiles. That figure surpasses a Wired magazine writer's recent tally of 744.

"Sex offenders have no business being on this site," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. "We believe MySpace has a responsibility to get them off the site."

The attorneys' letter requests that MySpace respond by May 29 with a count of how many registered sex offenders' profiles have been found on the site. Additionally, they ask that MySpace disclose how it is dealing with those sex offenders' removal from the site, explain how it alerts other members who may have communicated with them, and how law enforcement officials are being informed.

In January, MySpace was sued by the parents of several teenage girls who were allegedly assaulted by adults whom they met on the site. While MySpace has a history of compliance with investigations like these, and offers some safety measures of its own, many lawmakers remain critical that it's still not doing enough.

"We agree with the attorneys general that keeping bad people out of good places on the Internet is a challenge and a priority," Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said in a statement from MySpace that was released Monday afternoon. "We are in the initial stages of cross referencing our membership against Sentinel's registered sex offender database and removing any confirmed matches."

According to Nigam, additional government action would help MySpace. "Mandatory sex offender e-mail registration legislation--which is now being considered at the federal level and in several states," he said, "would significantly expedite this process and help keep sex offenders off our sites."