Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Parents Beware - MySpace

PARENTS BEWARE | Downstate man allegedly one of thousands of sex offenders using popular social networking Web site

January 15, 2008

A Downstate man could face life in prison on child pornography charges, and 13 other people have been thrown back in prison for parole violations after Attorney General Lisa Madigan discovered more than 1,500 registered sex offenders in Illinois were using MySpace.com.

Last year, Madigan and other top state lawyers subpoenaed the social networking Web site to obtain the names and profile information of registered sex offenders using MySpace, which is popular with youngsters.
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Lisa Madigan subpoenaed MySpace to find out which sex offenders had been using the site. The list led to charges against Carl Courtright.

On Monday, MySpace agreed with Illinois and other states to take more steps to protect children who use the Web site, and Madigan released a report with disturbing details about Illinois sex offenders prowling the Web site.

"I have been increasingly concerned about mounting evidence that predators are taking advantage of sites like MySpace to anonymously stalk children," Madigan said.
3 murderers used service

According to Madigan's report, one sex offender in Illinois accessed his MySpace profile more than 800 times between February and April -- and 1,558 Illinois sex offenders logged onto their MySpace profiles a total of 202,986 times.

Three Illinois murderers were among the sex offenders with profiles on MySpace.

Carl A. Courtright III -- previously convicted of having sex with a 16-year-old when he was 27 -- was busted in September on federal charges of child pornography as a result of Madigan's investigation.

Child pornography being traded on the Web -- such as "Russian Reality Kiddy 5Yr Old Carol Feeling Good" -- was traced to the Internet protocol address that Courtright was using for his MySpace profile, according to an indictment against him.

A videotape of the NBC show "To Catch a Predator" also was recovered from his home, court records show.

Courtright, 36, of Granite City near St. Louis, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on the federal charges.

Thirteen other registered sex offenders have been sent back to prison for parole violations connected to their MySpace use. Madigan's report did not name them. Her office was trying to determine Monday whether the names are a matter of public record, a spokeswoman said.

Generally, the parolees may have been prohibited from communicating with children or from accessing social networking sites as conditions of their parole, the spokeswoman said.

Cook County had the most Illinois registered sex offenders using MySpace with 104, followed by Lake County with 47, according to Madigan's report. DuPage and Will County had 22 each, Madigan said.

Across the country, MySpace has found more than 29,000 registered sex offenders with profiles on the popular site, authorities say.

MySpace agreed Monday to create a task force to develop age and identity verification tools. MySpace also promised to hire a contractor to compile a registry of e-mail addresses provided by parents who want to restrict their children's access to the site, Madigan said.


* Launched in 1999 by Thomas Anderson and Christopher DeWolfe. The first users of the social networking Web site were eUniverse employees, the company which started the site.

* In July 2005, MySpace was sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for $580 million.

* The minimum age to register a MySpace account is 14. Profiles below 16 years of age are automatically set to private. Late in 2006, MySpace announced new measures to protect children from known sex offenders.

* In July 2007, the company found and deleted profiles belonging to 29,000 registered sex offenders.


A by the numbers look at sex offenders and their proliferation on MySpace.com

Number of registered sex offenders in Illinois who logged into their MySpace profiles.

Number of times those sex offenders logged into their profile between February and April 2007 -- an average of more than 130 times each.

Number of registered sex offenders throughout the country who had profiles on MySpace.

Number of registered sex offenders on MySpace from Cook County -- the most in Illinois. According to Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Lake County had 47, and DuPage and Will County had 22 each.

"I have been increasingly concerned about mounting evidence that predators are taking advantage of sites like MySpace to anonymously stalk children.

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