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Sex Offender E-Mail Registry Signed Into Law 459

Posted by timothy
from the island-of-liars-and-truth-tellers dept.
As noted in Wired yesterday, tragedy in chaos writes, "Senator and Presidential-hopeful John McCain has managed to get a new bill signed into law, in the hope of ridding online social networks of the sexual predation of children. The 'Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008,' as it is called, calls for a database to be made in which all registered sexual offenders must also register their e-mail addresses so that MySpace, Facebook, etc. can run current and hopeful users through it, and eliminate access to the offenders. Though a noble goal, this is not very well thought out in methodology. They are asking known criminals to be honest, and are expecting them not to utilize any of the free and readily available e-mail services that exist so as to circumvent the system. There is also a potential for the crafty sex offender to possibly cause false positives by just registering an address that does not belong to them, thereby drawing in innocent bystanders."
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Sex Offender E-Mail Registry Signed Into Law

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  • by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:03PM (#25389647) Homepage Journal
    As the honest ones who never meant any harm will stay honest, and will be flagged as outcasts. The ones who do mean harm though, will just ignore the request to be honest and register a gmail account.
  • by MrCawfee (13910) <mrcawfee@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:06PM (#25389697) Homepage

    ... it's just stupid.

    Myspace: Sorry, you can't create an account, you are a pervert.
    Pervert: hmmmm, Eureka! I've Got It!
    Hotmail: here, have an email account.
    Myspace: I see you aren't a pervert now, welcome!

  • by nsayer (86181) * <nsayer@BLUEkfu.com minus berry> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:06PM (#25389707) Homepage

    They are asking known criminals to be honest, and are expecting them not to utilize any of the free and readily available e-mail services that exist so as to circumvent the system.

    Gun laws do not prevent felons from using guns to commit crimes. They do, however, mean that felons who use guns to commit further crimes get to stay in prison for much longer because of having violated those gun laws in addition to whatever crime they committed with the gun. That's what this law is about. It won't keep some perv from using mailnator to set up a myspace page, but if they get caught trolling myspace with it, the fact that they didn't register their e-mail address means that they get a longer prison sentence. That's the whole point.

    There is also a potential for the crafty sex offender to possibly cause false positives by just registering an address that does not belong to them, thereby drawing in innocent bystanders.

    1. Cui bono? Why would they bother to do this, except just to be a dick?

    2. I rather suspect that the penalty for supplying false information will be comparably stiff to not supplying it at all, which would seem to be sufficient deterrent.

  • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:07PM (#25389713)

    I see it as a way to tack on more charges in the future. He didn't register?! That makes him a CRIMINAL!

    And it's computer related so there goes all your electronics.

    Anyway, god forbid they keep dangerous people in jail. I mean, that's what it's for, right? If they're still a danger to society at large, why the hell are they not behind bars?

  • by davinc (575029) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:07PM (#25389729)
    Can't imagine spending my life with that albatross around my neck when I wasn't the one to shoot it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:08PM (#25389753)
    haha, yes, and any steps taken to curb terrorism are the right ones.
  • by Halo- (175936) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:13PM (#25389845)
    I would be surprised if this law prevented even a single case of contact between a known offender and a child.

    The only thing it will ever be used for is to tack another charge onto the sentences of repeat offenders if they are found to have not registered. (Which is a good thing, but is a side-effect...)

    The same result could be obtained by simply increasing the punishment for sexual offenses. This would cost less are possibly deter more (since it could be across the board, and not just for reoffenders who got caught and then discovered to be in non-compliance) Of course, it wouldn't allow MySpace to slap a happy "sex-offender free zone!" sticker on their website, and wouldn't let McCain play the "See, I know about the Internet... kinda... and I protect children! Yea me!" card.

    I suppose it will also be fun to see how this is spun as a groundbreaking wonderful thing in tonight's debate.
  • Tagging (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VE3OGG (1034632) <VE3OGG.rac@ca> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:14PM (#25389865)

    Someone please tag this 'youhavegottobekiddingme'!

    Do these politicians even run this drivel past their kids. Surely a 10 year old could point out the flaws in these bills...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:15PM (#25389889)

    What happens if I run a business. Do I have to register all of the e-mail addys on my domain? What about dynamically-generated addresses? What about anything that gets sent to my catch all e-mail address like contests I fill out?

    El stupido.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:15PM (#25389901)

    Anyway, god forbid they keep dangerous people in jail. I mean, that's what it's for, right? If they're still a danger to society at large, why the hell are they not behind bars?

    So you are saying there's no recourse? Why don't you just kill them then, because that would save a lot of resources and time instead of keeping "dangerous" people indefinitely.

  • The Law is Broken (Score:1, Insightful)

    by rhathar (1247530) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:15PM (#25389905) Homepage
    Right now no one will revise the law, but we must 'Protect the children!' but it seems that more and more the ones being caught in these laws aren't the ones we care about.

    Right now there is no difference (to you, the one that reads the 'sex offender list' when someone moves onto your block) between the creepy older man that molested dozens of children and the 18 year old that had a 17 year old boyfriend/girlfriend in High School.

    How about the 16 year old couple that got child pornography charges for keeping private photos of each other?

    How about the 15 year old girl [unitedliberty.org] that could be forced to register as a sex offender for the next 20 years?

    Yes, those dangerously disturbed should be kept away from the innocent, but you really want this kind of signal to noise? Do you really want your law enforcement to waste their time arresting High Schoolers with like-aged significant others?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:16PM (#25389923)

    2. I rather suspect that the penalty for supplying false information will be comparably stiff to not supplying it at all, which would seem to be sufficient deterrent.

    You have much in common with our elected officials. They make assumptions about the laws they sign, and don't bother to read them either. As for me, I rather suspect that you will change your tune in a hurry if your name appears in the list (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you aren't already a sex offender.)

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:16PM (#25389925) Journal

    A very salient point: If they're still a danger to society at large, why the hell are they not behind bars?

    Answer: Because without a group of people to vilify there is no easy way to sway the mindset of the public at large. If it were not for sex offenders, it might well be that we'd be protecting the children from godless atheists or some other group. Democrats perhaps? The USA system of democracy has been tortured into a shape that requires a evil-doers in order to function. We HAVE to be at war against something or nobody will vote.

    Sad but true.... According to Palin, we're engaged in an economic war right now also. Not sure when that was declared or even if the McCain campaign has spoken with her about this new war, but she has announced it. Beheading of Wall street types who don't own at least 3 cars is to begin next week.

  • by KalvinB (205500) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:17PM (#25389933) Homepage

    Prior to this bill no crime was committed by registering a free e-mail account when you are a sex offender. Now when Joe Sex Offender gets caught on a social network site using an illegal e-mail account he can be charged with at least one crime. Which is enough to throw him in prison for a longer time so the authorities can hold him while they investigate other crimes that he may have committed.

    Then at trial he's being charged with multiple crimes and faces a much harsher punishment.

    It will deter the "honest" sex offenders from using social networking sites thereby keeping them away from at least one source of temptation. The "dishonest" sex offenders will be more likely to be taken off the street if they're caught.

    So this bill is a no-lose proposition. If a sex offender doesn't obey the law they're just as difficult to catch as before but they are slammed in sentencing if they do get caught. As worst it only makes things more difficult for the sex offender when they're caught. At best it keeps them off the social networking sites.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:17PM (#25389935)
    Dear Mr McCain and to whom it may concern,

    You don't know the internet. Hell, you probably don't know what HTTP even stands for, or even what a "byte" is. Please do not pass legislation until you understand the concepts of modern technology.

    Going to go puke now as you continue to dance on our forefathers' graves, AC
  • by Drakin020 (980931) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:17PM (#25389945)

    Gun laws do not prevent felons from using guns to commit crimes. They do, however, mean that felons who use guns to commit further crimes get to stay in prison for much longer because of having violated those gun laws in addition to whatever crime they committed with the gun. That's what this law is about. It won't keep some perv from using mailnator to set up a myspace page, but if they get caught trolling myspace with it, the fact that they didn't register their e-mail address means that they get a longer prison sentence. That's the whole point.

    Then why not just make the sentence more harsh for second time offenders rather than create another law to increase the time in jail?

  • by spud603 (832173) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:18PM (#25389963)

    Anyway, god forbid they keep dangerous people in jail. I mean, that's what it's for, right?

    You make it sound like a foregone conclusion that prison is nothing more than a way to cordon off undesirables. It may well be, but that's by no means the generally accepted fact.
    For the idealists out there, prison is supposed to rehabilitative. For the Machiavellians it's a political tool of disenfranchisement.

  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:23PM (#25390069) Homepage Journal

    Yes, and the best way to do this is to place a blanket law over all sex offenders that makes it impossible to do normal things on the Internet, like starting a myspace page.

    Despite what you think, not all registered sex offenders are evil people. A 19 year old kid can go out and get drunk with his buddies and moon people out of a moving car window, get caught and convicted of indecent exposure (a little girl said she saw the guys butt!) and has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, despite being no threat whatsoever to children.

    I'm not trying to defend child molesters here; that is probably one of the worst crimes imaginable. I'm just saying that just because you're a registered sex offender, it does not always mean you're a kiddy porn hungry pervert.

    Perhaps a better law would be one that provides funding to help teach kids on the Internet about sexual predators and give them the information they need to avoid them.

  • by fastest fascist (1086001) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:27PM (#25390163)

    The only thing it will ever be used for is to tack another charge onto the sentences of repeat offenders if they are found to have not registered. (Which is a good thing, but is a side-effect...)

    A good thing? Really? I'd prefer a legal system that doesn't play shenanigans to add years to convicts' sentences, whatever the crime. If you want harder sentences for an offence, make the sentences harder, don't corrupt the legal process with this kind of crap.

  • Maybe. Perhaps a followup law could be that all spammers would have to register their email addresses, so we'd be protected from getting friend requests from women who want to show us their naughty web-cams.

    That'd be just as effective, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:36PM (#25390339)

    (posting as AC to not undo moderation)

    That would work really well, except for the fact that all of the information someone would need to put your email address on the list is publicly available in the current list of sex offender information...

  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:49PM (#25390561)

    The same result could be obtained by simply increasing the punishment for sexual offenses.

    No, because if you did that you could only punish people who committed sex offenses after the law was passed. Why settle for that when you can pass laws that continually to tack on additional punishments to people who have already paid their debt to society? People who have committed a crime in the past don't deserve to have any sort of freedom.

  • by ODiV (51631) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:54PM (#25390681)

    Now they have more to charge someone with!

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:54PM (#25390695) Homepage

    Perhaps a better law would be one that provides funding to help teach kids on the Internet about sexual predators and give them the information they need to avoid them.

    Of course, if you suggest that law, your political opponents might make ads accusing you of wanting to teach kindergardeners about sex.

  • by Kleen13 (1006327) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:00PM (#25390811)
    The problem with sex offenders is that no matter what kind of rehab/psych treatments the offender gets, they do not change their sexual preferences. As a father, I'm torn. I'd like nothing better for the skinners of the world to be locked up forever or put in general population and let the other convicts take care of the problem to protect children like mine. On the flip side, they have their rights as well. (Flame-bait disclaimer: to have a sexual preference, not break the law and abuse children) From what I understand, most of these predators are born with their preferences and develop them throughout adolescence. You might as well ask me to stop being heterosexual, or a homosexual to just stop being gay. I don't think a registry is going to work. There is simply no reasonable way to insulate these people from those they prey on. It's all just political posturing anyway. I wonder what else ended up on that bill.
  • by narrowhouse (1949) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:07PM (#25390947) Homepage

    If what you say were true then this would just be a convenient excuse for getting rid of free and essentially anonymous email services... hey, wait a second.

    Seriously, even if McCain is clueless enough not think of the dozens of gaping holes in this Law (I don't know if he is or not) you can bet there are a ton of neo-fascists who are drooling over the possibilities created by this legislative stupidity. "But we have to be able to track everyone on the internets to be sure that the sex offenders are registering their email addresses."
    "Anonymous email isn't necessary if you aren't breaking the law." Just like Free Speech isn't necessary if you never say anything that upsets anyone. Yeah it is a conspiracy theory but it sounds pretty plausible doesn't it?

  • by narrowhouse (1949) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:30PM (#25391317) Homepage

    If you want sex offenders to serve more time, increase the time sex offenders serve. Sentencing "enhancements" are legislative tricks to make it look like a politician is tough on crime. Every law that gives police an excuse to pull over your car fall in this same category. Want an argument against it? It is lazy, it is intellectually dishonest, and it is political showboating to pass a law that you don't think can or should be enforced properly just because it may come in handy as an excuse to increase jail time or authorize a search warrant, etc.

    Why should using a gun increase the amount of time someone serves for a felony? If there is a problem with felons not serving enough time pass a law that allows sentences to be longer. Anything else will lead to inconsistent enforcement and sentencing for "equal" crimes. I don't care if someone killed a mother of 3 with a fork or an AK-47 and neither should you, the crime speaks for itself.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:36PM (#25391403) Homepage Journal

    I have already been protecting my children from Democrats.

    It doesn't matter, they'll still grow up to hate you. And maybe they'll grow up like another child of a good, strong Republican, Ronald Reagan, and be a homosexual ballet dancer.

    That's what's known as "justice".

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:58PM (#25391777) Journal

    Agreed. More to the point, I suspect if you really went down the rolls, you'd find that a large percentage of the sex offenders out there are guys who did something with a high school girl when they were in their 20s and got caught. You can't tell me that most of them are "dangerous" or deserve to be treated as second class citizens for the rest of their lives. (Until they mature, perhaps, but....)

    Sex offender registry laws should be reserved for the extreme cases---cases of rape in which neither party was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (or in which the injured party was unknowingly/unwillingly subjected to drugs with intent to rape), cases in which someone over... let's say 21 intentionally and knowingly engages in or attempts to engage in sexual contact with someone under... let's say 12, etc. That gives a wide enough safety margin that it weeds out everyone but the people who truly are a danger to society.

    Without such limits, you're just ruining the lives a bunch of otherwise normal people who did stupid things when they were in high school or college. That doesn't make much sense to me (or, frankly, to anyone with half a brain). If anything, this is why laws that don't give judges any leeway in sentencing are universally bad. They create an environment in which a judge is forced to give a punishment even if the circumstances clearly do not warranty that punishment. Unfortunately, without those laws, we get problems on the other side---idiot judges who keep letting out repeat offenders who progressively work their way up to heinous crimes. I don't know what the solution is except perhaps to pass laws that would require all criminal sentencing to occur by a vote of... say seven judges who are all required to read the complete decision of the presiding judge prior to enacting sentencing (with harsh criminal penalties for any judge who regularly fails to read the decisions before voting).

  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:00PM (#25391803)
    I consider myself an idealist. I want a prison system that...

    1) Renders capital punishment un-necessary. We're not a small island nation, we truly can afford to lock up the heinous forever and we can achieve it.

    2) Treats rehabilitation as second only in priority to containment for prisoners who are physically dangerous. They should not be released at all unless we can be reasonably certain that they are no longer a threat.

    3) Does not double as a housing project for lots of non-physically-dangerous offenders. Let them go, employ them in something productive, do whatever, but don't feed them three squares a day while they're sat on their ass doing nothing but learning how to be better criminals from the other cons.

    decades of "get tough" cheap politics have done little to make people safer, have run up huge bills, and fucked-up a lot of people.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:59PM (#25392537) Homepage

    Any reason you feel like mentioning McCain but not Hillary, or the fact that they were merely co-sponsors? Or the fact that the vote was in fact, unanimous?

    It's called smear tactics and political bias when done why the Right. It's called 'oops we did that? so sorry' when done by the Left.

  • by BakaHoushi (786009) <Goss.Sean@gmaMENCKENil.com minus author> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @08:45PM (#25392953) Homepage

    While I like your idea of judges voting, I think you're missing the most basic point.

    No matter how well you word a law, no matter how thorough you are to close up the loopholes and no matter how specific you make it, some idiot, somewhere, will screw it up. It's a law of nature. Innocents will be hurt and the guilty will get away.

    It's just a matter of being careful enough in your wording to make these instances as rare as you can.

  • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:28PM (#25393283)

    Well, you're correct that if somebody is attracted to children they will likely always be attracted to children.

    At the same time, recidivism rates for sex offenders is relatively low compared to many other types of crime, particularly violent crime. They may always be attracted to children, but that doesn't mean they can't be helped to control their urges or find alternate, more accepted mediums to dispense with them. There is quite a bit of porn out there, for example, claiming that the girls are children (usually 16). They very often look it, but I suspect that's not true most of the time. Obviously I have no idea if that helps, in the long run. I know doing nothing doesn't help either though.

    My main problem with all this sex offender stuff is like somebody said earlier: If they're so dangerous and can't be rehabilitated, just execute them or lock them up forever and be done with it. The idea that somebody can do their time and even not have any period of probation yet be subject for the rest of their lives to tracking (registries, etc) and humiliation/ostrasization/threats/physical harm/etc (being required to tell their neighbors if they move in, "no sex offender" housing zones) is not only repugnant to me, it seems to all but guarantee we turn them into criminals again in one way or another. These laws also seem to be all about that. Nobody who knows anything expects that this bill will ACTUALLY protect children from all but the stupidest of predators, but it's another thing for cops to be able to put a big-bad-predator back in jail. Regardless of whether or not he really did anything.

    Let's just find some internal consistency. If being a sex offender is something that makes your life forfeit, then do that. If not, let's stop passing these idiotic laws so DAs can become politicians and politicians can claim to be tough on crime and protecting your children.

  • by atraintocry (1183485) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:31PM (#25393321)

    While we're at it, maybe "rehab" shouldn't be a euphemism for the prison industry getting cheap forced labor out of inmates.

  • Re:The point is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by atraintocry (1183485) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:41PM (#25393373)

    Cynicism is cool and all, but there's nothing impossible about doing something illegal, getting caught, and deciding upon being released from jail that you won't do it again. I know more than one person who's followed that pattern.

    Put another way: I don't see any hard evidence for the idea that people are intrinsically "good people" or "evil people". I do see evidence for the idea that people screw up, and not everyone is rich enough to shield themselves from the consequences of that.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:59PM (#25393517)

    The sort of person who has demonstrated at least once that they're willing to assault someone with a deadly weapon not in self defense is a violent sort of person who could well do it again. Yet, assault with a deadly weapon isn't an automatic life sentence without parole, and so some potentially dangerous people are released, and yes, some of these people subsequently assault another person. We make tradeoffs between protecting society and locking everyone up all the time.

  • by LihTox (754597) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @10:25PM (#25393699)

    1. The plural of anecdote isn't data. I'll believe that there are some nasty guys on sex offender lists, but I suspect there are also kids who had sex with their childhood sweetheart when they were underage, urinated in the park, etc.

    2. If we want to keep track of nasty people after they've been in jail, why is this list restricted to SEX offenders? Is a murderer who's released after 20 years less of a danger to his community than a rapist?

    3. No bones about it, these restrictions we place on sex offenders after they've served ARE punishment: they restrict their freedom, their ability to live where they want, work where they want, maybe even work at all. Is it fair to add to the sentence of criminals after the fact? Or would you sacrifice freedom for security at all costs?

  • by jtn (6204) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:37PM (#25394121) Homepage

    Why would anyone engage in sexual activity before marriage is completely beyond me. Non of these issues would happen if people just behave.

    Uhh... you're aware that this idea is a relatively recent phenomenon, correct? In all of human history, the concepts of "sex" and "marriage" had only a casual relationship to each other.

    Are you seriously linking pre-marital sex to things such as sexual abuse? I would love to see your research on the subject.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:49PM (#25394199) Journal

    Yep sex offenders could be high school kids _consensually_ having sex with each other.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_v._State_of_Georgia [wikipedia.org]

    "and later being offered and receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl" = "aggravated child molestation" = mandatory 10 year jail sentence.

    Imagine if your friend got jailed for 10 years because you voluntarily initiated sex with him. Talk about mentally scarred for life, and so who was doing the scarring - your friend? No. The State.

    Then there are cases of high school kids sending naked pictures of themselves to others... Kids do that sort of stuff. They're silly, but they never expect that the State might jail them in order to "protect them".

    Who needs protection like that? The State ends up being one more threat to your children's safety - if not a bigger threat.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:13AM (#25394333) Journal

    "The problem with sex offenders is that no matter what kind of rehab/psych treatments the offender gets, they do not change their sexual preferences"

    1) Not all sex offenders are what you are thinking of (others have pointed it out)

    2) So but do they reoffend? This is a nerd site, let's have some evidence.

    Not a reliable source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_offender#Recidivism_rates [wikipedia.org]

    But even if they reoffend, robbers and violent people reoffend too (arguably at higher rates), they're not locked up forever.

    You still give them another chance. Even if they keep doing it again.

    I'd rather live in a society that's civilized enough to give people another chance, rather than lock them up forever, or execute them.

    If rehabilitation doesn't work (maybe the rehab methods are broken? Fix them then) and they keep proving themselves dangerous then lock them up longer (you don't have to torture them - just lock them up), rather than put them on stupid lists.

    3) So what if they don't change their sexual preferences?

    The last I checked not every guy rapes girls they are attracted to, not every guy has consensual sex with another man's wife/girlfriend just because they are attracted to each other.

    What are you going to do? Jail them for thought crime?

    They're already jailing people for possessing child porn.

    In some places adultery is illegal (I'm sure that includes parts of the USA), so maybe they should start jailing people for having movies of that AND get turned on by watching it.

    Maybe they'll jail you one day and put you on a sex offender list because you were undressing a woman with your eyes, against her will.

    Or jail and list your son because he had this silly app on his phone that fakes "undressing a woman" given a photo.

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