New York sex offenders would be required to reveal their online aliases to the state under legislation that aims to protect users of MySpace, FaceBook and other Web hangouts from Internet predators.
The identities would then be shared with social-networking sites, according to the bill written by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.
State law already requires offenders to provide Internet screen names, but the new legislation would clarify and expand what they must supply and permit sharing with online services. That would allow the sites to screen or remove offenders and notify authorities about any illegal behavior.
Cuomo _ who announced the bill Tuesday with the support of Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver _ said he started working on the issue after lengthy discussions with Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace.
As the state urged the sites to make changes to protect children and teens, the sites found it difficult to act without legislation in place.
"You can't say to MySpace and Facebook it's not illegal, but I want you to stop it," Cuomo said.
"Our laws need to keep up with the times," said Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer for MySpace. "We keep a watchful eye on predators who leave jails and prisons in our physical world. If we fail to do so in our online world, we unwittingly provide an advantage to these predators, an advantage that they can and will exploit."
Under the "Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act," or e-STOP, sex offenders would have to report their online information to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. That includes all e-mail addresses, chat and instant messaging names and online social networking identities.
State corrections law already requires offenders to provide Internet screen names, but the new legislation would clarify and expand the information they must supply and permit sharing it with social networking sites and other online services. That would allow the sites to screen or remove offenders from their sites and notify authorities about any illegal behavior.
If offenders don't report changes in their online identities within 10 days, they can be charged with a felony.
The bill applies to all sex offenders.
But additional parole and probation mandates would be applied for Level 3 sex offenders _ considered the most likely to offend again _ those who have committed crimes against minors and offenders who used the Internet to find victims.
While on parole, Level 3 offenders could not use social networking sites, access pornography, communicate with minors online, or communicate with anyone for the purpose of sexually abusing children. The bill would make New York the first state to make those restrictions mandatory, said John Milgrim, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.
It would not apply to sex offenders who live in other states but attempt to contact children or teens in New York.
"I was aware of this issue, not as attorney general, but as a parent," Cuomo said. "I pose the classic difficulty, I have three young girls ... they are frankly better on the computer than I am, but there is a certain level of naivety."
Parole officers would have the authority to check the offenders' hard drives, but the legislation wouldn't require tracking of IP addresses, which identify particular computers. The sex offenders would bear most of the responsibility for reporting their online activities, officials said.
If passed, the law would be retroactive for all offenders listed in the registry.
"It is essential that we restrict the ability of sex offenders to use the Internet to prey on children," said Gov. Eliot Spitzer in a written statement. "I have asked my staff to review this proposal, and to work closely with the Legislature and the attorney general to enact legislation that accomplishes that goal."
At least 13 other states have introduced legislation limiting the online activities of sex offenders. Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arizona, Illinois and Colorado specifically require offenders to provide the Internet communication identities to a state agency or registry system.
The federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 includes "Internet identifiers" among the information collected on registered sex offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
MySpace.com agreed this month to take more steps to protect children and teens from online sexual predators and bullies.
The hugely popular online hangout agreed to create a task force of industry professionals to improve users' safety, and other social-networking sites will be invited to participate.
New York state has nearly 26,000 registered sex offenders, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited children. Nationwide more than 627,000 people are registered offenders.