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Federal Internet Law & Policy
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Sex Offender Registries and Websites

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

The Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act was passed in 2006 and, among other things, created state public online databases of sex offenders and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website through which all of the state databases could be accessed. Leveraging information technology, the Department of Justice has now put within everyone's reach information about sex offenders in their neighborhood. Visit the site, punch in your zip code, and get a graphical map displaying who lives in your neighborhood, their name, where they live, and what they were charged with.

It's easy to use and the results can be, unfortunately, surprising.

The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website provides information about who is near you in the real world - but what about in the virtual world. What about on social networking sites. How do you know whether a person near you online is a sex offender? Your child may be discussing with a "new friend" how yesterday some one-hit-wonder-pop band is, or how good it is that Jagr left the Rangers and went back to Russia to play hockey. That "new friend" could be anyone.

Sen. Chuck Schumer attempted to address this problem with the recently passed Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act (KIDS Act). This new law would require sexual offenders to register their email addresses and another other online identifiers that they use. The Department of Justice will house this information in a secure database and permit certified social networking sites to securely contrast their subscriber lists against the sex offender database. The statute calls for this comparison to be secure such that the DOJ Database Operator cannot see the social networking site's list - and the social networking site cannot see the database - except for those records that match records on the social networking site's list (this security is possible using cryptographic measures).

Use of the service by social networks is voluntary, they must be certified, and they may not abuse the information they come to acquire from the database.

Registration of email addresses and internet identifiers is not voluntary for the convicted sex offenders; failure to comply may subject violators to up to ten years' imprisonment.

Upon passage, sponsor Sen. Schumer stated

"Millions of teenagers log on to websites like MySpace and they, and their parents, shouldn't have to worry about running in to these predators online," Schumer said. "Sex offenders have no business joining social networking communities - especially those with teenage users - and our legislation will help keep them out. We know that many predators are using the Internet to find victims. This legislation will take a big step toward keeping sexual predators out of the online neighborhoods our kids frequent."

The KIDS Act was also co-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ).

Laws

(c) Optional Exemptions- A jurisdiction may exempt from disclosure-- (1) any information about a tier I sex offender convicted of an offense other than a specified offense against a minor; (2) the name of an employer of the sex offender; (3) the name of an educational institution where the sex offender is a student; and (4) any other information exempted from disclosure by the Attorney General. (d) Links- The site shall include, to the extent practicable, links to sex offender safety and education resources. (e) Correction of Errors- The site shall include instructions on how to seek correction of information that an individual contends is erroneous. (f) Warning- The site shall include a warning that information on the site should not be used to unlawfully injure, harass, or commit a crime against any individual named in the registry or residing or working at any reported address. The warning shall note that any such action could result in civil or criminal penalties.
  • Sec. 119: National Sex Offender Registry (a) Internet- The Attorney General shall maintain a national database at the Federal Bureau of Investigation for each sex offender and any other person required to register in a jurisdiction's sex offender registry. The database shall be known as the National Sex Offender Registry. (b) Electronic Forwarding- The Attorney General shall ensure (through the National Sex Offender Registry or otherwise) that updated information about a sex offender is immediately transmitted by electronic forwarding to all relevant jurisdictions.
  • Sec. 120: Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (a) Establishment- There is established the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (hereinafter in this section referred to as the `Website'), which the Attorney General shall maintain. (b) Information To Be Provided- The Website shall include relevant information for each sex offender and other person listed on a jurisdiction's Internet site. The Website shall allow the public to obtain relevant information for each sex offender by a single query for any given zip code or geographical radius set by the user in a form and with such limitations as may be established by the Attorney General and shall have such other field search capabilities as the Attorney General may provide.
  • Sec. 201: Internet Sale Date Rape Drug illegal 21 USC § 841(g)
  • Sec. 629: Children's Safety Online Awareness Campaigns
  • Sec. 630: Grants for Online Child Safety Programs
  • Title VII: Internet Safety Act
  • Sec. 703: Deception by Embedded Words or Images
  • Sec. 704: Additional Prosecutors for Offenses Relating to the Sexual Explotation of Children
  • Sec. 705: Additional Computer-Related Resources (forensics)
  • Sec. 706: Additional ICAC Task Forces
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