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Assembly acts on sex offenders: Benedetto

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Assemblymember Michael R. Benedetto announced that the Assembly passed a measure, the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act 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 predators from victimizing children on Internet social networking sites.

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;

• 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 Web sites 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.

Although many privacy safeguards still exist under federal and state law, the assemblyman 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 organizations will now be able to effectively prescreen – and remove, if necessary – the offenders’ addresses from the site,” Benedetto said.

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.

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