Illinois outlaws sex offenders from using Facebook, MySpace

Governor signs bill aimed at keeping known predators from online prowling

The state of Illinois made it a law this week that convicted sex offenders cannot use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Bill HB 1314 this week, making it a class 4 felony for a sex offender to use or even access a social networking site. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

"I am pleased to sign this important legislation which prohibits sex offenders from using social network sites like Facebook and MySpace," Quinn said in a statement e-mailed to Computerworld.

"I want to thank the Illinois General Assembly, who passed this bill unanimously, for their commitment to protecting the families and children of Illinois."

The new state law is geared toward making it more difficult for predators to connect with previous or new victims.

The issue, according to Dan Olds, principal analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, lies in how to put any teeth into the law.

"Whether banning convicted sex offenders from social networking is just or not can be argued, but the greater point is if it can be enforced," he added.

"It is relatively easy to build a bogus online persona so that person can still participate in any social network. The only way to have any hope of enforcing this law is to require social networks to check user identification and then cross-reference that against court records. I doubt that will happen any time soon."

Social networking sites, such as MySpace, have been dealing with the sex offender issue for some time. In 2007, MySpace came under fire when attorneys general from eight states told MySpace to turn over the names of potentially thousands of registered sex offenders who may be members of its site.

The states' head attorneys said at the time that they were "gravely concerned" that sexual predators were using the Web site to lure children to meet them offline.

They asked MySpace to tell them how many registered sex offenders they've identified on the site and what the company is doing to remove them.

Later that same year, the spotlight turned to MySpace rival Facebook when Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal warned that sex offenders were lurking on the increasingly popular social networking site.

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