Calif. bills target sex offenders online

Editor: This is entirely about demagogues like George Runner exacting more revenge against sex offenders. To make their lives impossible into perpetuity is his sole aim. To marginalize sex offenders who have already served their sentences to the point of social slavery is what makes Senator George Runner tick. And, despite the fact that he is a Christian fundamentalist with a deep and abiding hatred for sexual freedom in general, he will, no doubt, receive lots of support across the political and theological spectrum for his continued expansion of governmental intrusion into every nook and cranny of everyone's - not just sex offender's - lives.

That the law is hardly enforceable on first reading is also not the point. The point of this law will be to criminalize acts committed by registered sex offenders that would never be criminal if exercised as a right by anyone else. By so doing, it further instills terror in people who, despite not committing new crimes and attempting to put their lives back together and contribute to society, must break absurd laws such as the one he is proposing in order to work and function in that very society, knowing that at any time they come under scrutiny by the police (a constant threat for the R.S.O.) their "crime" of not registering an email address will land them back in prison.

When are we going to stop taking the lead from the zealots amongst us, whether they are the most extreme sex-hating gender feminists or the religious sex-hating fanatics? The common denominator between them is authoritarianism and a contempt for the individual and, of course, a hatred of other people's sex lives.
By dominating our national conversation, we allow them to set an agenda for all of us. When would you ever wish to have these people dictate your personal lives and priorities, demanding each and every email address you use?

Sex offenders would be required to share Internet identifiers.

Posted at 10:55 PM on Friday, Apr. 02, 2010

SACRAMENTO -- New York passed a law a couple of years ago requiring sex offenders to report e-mail addresses to the state's offender registry.

The result: At least 4,336 registered sex offenders were purged from social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace thanks to the new data, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recently announced.

Several California lawmakers want to follow New York's lead.

Newly introduced bills would require sex offenders to share online identifiers -- such as e-mail accounts and instant-message aliases -- while at the same time prohibiting offenders on parole from using social networking sites.

"These social networks become a real trolling place for predators," said Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, author of one of the bills. "I think we should create as many speed bumps as possible to keep them off those social networks."

But the bills are far from foolproof. Supporters concede that offenders could switch e-mail addresses and not tell the authorities. But if they are caught, they run the risk of going back to prison -- and "that's a pretty big risk," Runner said.

In Fresno, an estimated 10% to 15% of sexual assault cases involve victims who were first contacted online, according to the Fresno Police Department. About 1,600 sex offenders live in Fresno.

Lt. David Newton, head of Fresno's criminal investigations bureau, supports the bills, but said they aren't ironclad. "We don't necessarily believe this may prevent many sexual assaults from occurring," he said. But "this is going to provide another arrow in our quiver."

He said the ban on social sites use by offenders will allow investigators to levy additional charges against predators.

Opponents fear the bills would lead to overzealous prosecutions and needlessly send more people to already crowded prisons.

Sex offenders already must register for life, including those who commit less-serious crimes such as indecent exposure, said Ignacio Hernandez, a lobbyist for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which represents criminal defense lawyers.

"All this would do is prohibit people from using these social networking sites for lawful, positive, productive purposes -- and that really makes no sense," he said.

A similar bill failed last legislative session, as concerns arose about the costs of collecting the new information and imprisoning offenders who violate the new rules.

A report last year suggests children face no greater danger online than they do in real life. Rather, the biggest risks on the Web are harassment and bullying among children -- not adults targeting kids, said a report by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, created by 49 state attorneys to study the threats children face online.

"The image presented by the media of an older male deceiving and preying on a young child does not paint an accurate picture of the nature of the majority of sexual solicitations and Internet-initiated off-line encounters," reported the task force, which included academics and representatives of Internet businesses and nonprofits.

However, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who helped create the task force, criticized the report, saying it relied on inadequate research and downplayed the threat of online predators.

Current law requires sexual offenders to register their home addresses with local authorities every time they move. Under the bills, new e-mail accounts would have to be registered days after they are created.

The bills are SB 1204 by Runner, AB 1850 by Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, and AB 2208 by Assembly Member Norma Torres, D-Pomona.

The registry information is sent to the state and portions are displayed publicly at the Megan's Law Web site. Social networking sites such as Facebook already run checks against offender information. Having e-mail addresses would improve the process, said Chris Kelly, a state attorney general candidate and the former privacy officer and head of global public policy for Facebook.

Kelly, a Democrat, said Facebook already has strong protections in place, including a "real name culture" that weeds out users employing fake monikers. The site also flags suspicious users whose friend requests are rejected at a high rate or who overuse the search function.

"None of these systems are foolproof, but they go far beyond what most people assume has gone on," he said.

The state legislation comes after Congress in 2006 passed a law, known as the Adam Walsh Act, setting minimum standards for sex offender registries, including collecting Internet identifiers. States that don't comply by July 2011 risk losing some federal grants -- about $3 million in California.

California's Sex Offender Management Board has recommended the state not implement the federal law, partly because the costs of making the changes would exceed the grant loss.

The reporter can be reached at or (916) 326-5541.

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