Government wants to exclude sex offenders from social networks
The British government wants to ensure that sex offenders with prior convictions have no access to social networking web sites like MySpace or Facebook. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has proposed that e-mail addresses of registered offenders be passed to the operators of online social networks. The social networks would then be expected to use these data to deny access to the criminals. If a sex offender fails to provide an email address to the police – assuming they have an email account or accounts – or provides a false address, the offender will face imprisonment for up to five years.
Smith explained her idea stating, "I want to see every child living their lives free from fear, whether they are meeting friends in a youth club or in a chat room." The government works with private industry and public organisations to make it difficult for sex offenders to strike, both in real life and online. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), founded two years ago, would work together with the website operators to implement the ban.
The first issue of the UK Social Networking Guidance offers advice to industry, parents, and children on how to ensure a secure online environment. Appropriate filtering software that meets "independent" minimum child protection standards will carry a logo. This identifies software that parents can trust.
The British Office of Communications (Ofcom) recently determined that half of all British minors between the ages of 8 and 17 who use the internet have a profile on an online social networking site. Among 8 to 11-year-olds, the figure is 27 per cent, even though social networks exclude users under 13.
In the US, efforts to protect minors are focused mainly on MySpace. This is supposed to establish a precedent, which can be applied to other social networking sites. Under pressure from state attorneys, the social network excluded thousands of sex offenders. In January, MySpace came to an agreement with state attorneys on child protection principles.