Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine (D-Glen Cove) announced that he supports a measure regulating sex offenders' use of the Internet to help prevent sex crimes. The bill is the result of a landmark agreement with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to prevent sex offenders from victimizing children on Internet social networking sites.
New York State Assemblymembers Charles Lavine, Tim Gordon, Ellen Jaffee, Al Stirpe, Ro Ann Destito, Ellen Young, Joseph Lentol, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
The Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP) mandates that sex offenders register Internet accounts and screen names used for social networking purposes with law enforcement; allows social networking Web sites to access sex offender Internet information in order to prevent offenders from preying on children and report violations of law to investigators; and regulates use of the Internet by certain sex offenders on probation and parole.
"New York is the first state in the country to craft legislation with such strong online prohibitions and mandates requiring registered sex offenders to keep law enforcement informed of their online activity," Lavine said. "The Internet can be a wonderful tool for learning and communication, but the appropriate safeguards must be in place to keep it safe for children and others. This legislation takes an important step in shielding them from dangerous predators."
Under the bill:
• All sex offenders who are required to register under Megan's Law must register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services all Internet accounts and provide all electronic mail addresses and designations used for the purposes of chatting, instant messaging, social networking or other similar Internet communications; and
• Registered sex offenders must notify DCJS within 10 days if that data changes, or face the current penalties under Megan's Law for failing to register - a class E felony for a first offense and a class D felony for subsequent offenses; and sex offenders' Internet information will be made available to social networking websites who are authorized to prescreen or remove offenders and advise law enforcement if there is a potential violation of law or a threat to public safety.
"Many of these ubiquitous online hangouts have become dangerous places for New Yorkers - especially underage teens - mainly because these websites provide sex offenders intent on harming children an opportunity to expose minors to obscene material and unwanted sexual advances," Lavine said. "e-STOP will assuredly help prevent an untold number of sexual offenses over the Internet."
Although many privacy safeguards will still exist under federal and state law, Lavine said that the information collected by DCJS will be made available to any business or organization that provides social networking services over the Internet to minors.
"These providers will now be able to effectively prescreen - and remove, if necessary - the offenders' addresses from the site," Lavine said. "They'll also be authorized to contact law enforcement and government officials who investigate potential online sex offenses."
The bill also imposes four new, mandatory conditions of conditional discharge, probation and parole for certain dangerous sex offenders under Megan's Law, including:
• A complete bar on Internet use to access pornography;
• A ban on accessing or belonging to social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace;
• A complete bar on using the Internet to communicate with other individuals or groups for the purpose of promoting sexual relations with minors; and
• A bar against using the Internet to communicate with a minor unless the person is a child of the offender and the offender is not otherwise prohibited from communicating with that child.
"This legislation helps to keep our children safe by strengthening our laws regarding online sex predators and empowering Internet sites and authorities to help prevent future tragedies," Lavine said.