In the wake of several sex offenses that are alleged to have been traced to contacts on social-networking sites, MySpace earlier this year began checking its registered-user list against a database of registered sex offenders. In May, the News Corp.-owned site said it had found 7,000 users.
North Carolina AG
But a document authored by Attorney General Roy Cooper distributed today in a hearing in front of the North Carolina state House of Representatives -- which is considering a bill, already passed by the state Senate, that would require parental consent for children to join MySpace -- put the number at 29,000.
"That number includes just the predators who signed up using their real names, and not the ones who failed to register or used fake names, or who haven't been convicted," wrote Mr. Cooper, who is one of several attorneys general working to slap restrictions on social networks. Attorneys general in Connecticut and Massachusetts have also been lobbying for reforms on MySpace and other sites.
MySpace said the 29,000 names have been deleted from its servers. "We're pleased that we've successfully identified and removed registered sex offenders from our site and hope that other social-networking sites follow our lead," said Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam.
The number of sex offenders that had been on MySpace figures to boost identity-verification advocates who have been arguing for age- and identity-verification requirements for social-networking sites.
'This is horrifying'
"On the most basic level, this is horrifying," said John Aristotle Phillips, CEO of Aristotle, a technology consulting firm that has developed age-verification for sites including Anheuser-Busch's pioneering Bud.TV. "You have 29,000 convicted sex offenders milling around with kids on a website, and it's just the tip of the iceberg because these are just the people who were stupid enough to use their real names."
MySpace has argued in the past that age verification is ineffective.
"It isn't perfect," Mr. Phillips conceded. "But it can at least reduce the anonymity that sex offenders require to commit their crimes."