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Sex Offender E-Mail Registry Signed Into Law 459

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 ichbineinneuben ( 1065378 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:12PM (#25389829)
    Once again the politicians, with solemn faces, intone "Save the Children!" and pass a law the only demonstrable purpose of which is to make them look caring to constituents too ignorant to see it's flaws.
  • by Palinchron ( 924876 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:12PM (#25389835)
    As the owner of a domain, I possess a countably infinite number of email addresses. All of them are mine, and I can use them when I feel like it. If I ever were to appear on this list, I suspect the USA government will run out of disk space before I run out of email addresses.

    The same holds for anyone with a gmail account, by the way, with the *+username@gmail.com addressing scheme and all.
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:16PM (#25389931) Journal

    IANAL, but the idea with these kind of laws is usually to create a lesser charge that can be used as leverage to prevent a greater crime for occurring. In this case, a sex offender can be taken offline for having their email address on a kid's forum, without having to wait for them to start a relationship with a minor. It's important to be very cautious about these kinds of laws, but in this case, I have to cautiously agree.

  • Too late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by philspear ( 1142299 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:18PM (#25389969)

    Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008

    So... when did the "Getting rid of the sexual predators and deviants already on the internet act" get passed?

  • Re:flaws maybe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:26PM (#25390151) Homepage Journal

    One would also hope that there was a way to reliably be removed from said list, by proving who you are with said address.

  • by GrumblyStuff ( 870046 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:28PM (#25390181)

    I don't know. I thought justice was more than punishment and retribution and revenge and vengeance. ...but of course, we'd have a lot more resources without the war on drugs.

    The point I'm trying to make is that jail is the stated place for dangerous people, right? Where they can be kept, supervised, and (in theory) made into a productive member of society? They were held, judged unfit to be free with the rest of us, and um... released before they were deemed safe to the population?

    I'm just a stickler for definitions and people holding true to doing what they say. If jail is for dangerous people, then keep dangerous people in jail. If jail is for rehabilitation, then people to be released from jail should meet whatever criteria is set and be considered free thereafter.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:47PM (#25390527)

    And what about those that didn't really do any harm? Not everyone on the sex offenders list is a 30 year old guy that molested some sweet young 12 year old.

    18 year old and his 17 year old girlfriend with over zealous parents.
    Urination in public while drunk (or sober).
    Changing clothes (not underwear) out in "public". This hits close to home because at Rugby tournaments we don't get locker rooms. You pull up and change in the parking lot. I've heard of people that got railroaded because the park was X yards from a school. And not even underwear. Just shorts/ shirts. The shit you would expect to see at a beach.

    Is there anyone in a America that isn't a criminal in some way?

  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) * <nsayer@kfPASCALu.com minus language> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:12PM (#25391033) Homepage

    Create enough false positives, and there could be enough public outcry to get the law repealed, or at least neutered.

    If this law is implemented properly (yes, I know. Let's just say it is for the sake of argument), then our troll would have to appear before a police officer (or equivalent), identify themselves properly, and declare under penalty of perjury that the e-mail address they are registering is theirs.

    Still think sufficient numbers of convicted sex offenders would be willing to commit a felony in a context where they'd be pretty easy to identify just as an act of civil disobedience?

    Of course, if this isn't the procedure they set up, then of course it will be abused. And shame on them, if so. But that's not an argument against the law per se.

  • Re:A good first step (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:14PM (#25391051) Homepage

    Well, I was somewhat making a joke. In case you don't know, McCain ran an ad against Obama [huffingtonpost.com] regarding this exact issue.

    In short, Obama supported a bill which provided "age appropriate sex education", which for young kids meant teaching them to avoid predators. McCain put out ads that tried to make it seem like Obama just wants to teach little kids about sex.

  • ACRONYMS == BAD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaro@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:19PM (#25391135) Homepage Journal

    As a general rule, any act that has a "cute" or "fancy" nickname is instantly a very bad one, passed only to increase one's chances of re-election or up the approval rating. They likely spend more time thinking of the bill's acronym rather than the actual bill.

    This act is no different. "Ah, but what's KIDSP?" you ask. I wondered that myself, and then I saw it:

    Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008
    KIDS' Predators Act (Apostrophe mine)

    Aw, how cute. I bet they spent an hour trying to figure out how to get the apostrophe in there.

    Remember, folks: A->B does not mean that !A->!B. An act can still be bad without a nice acronym, but the congresscritters make it easier to spot bad bills by adding them in.

  • The point is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:31PM (#25391321)

    To create an ever expanding list of things that are not criminal unless you've already committed a crime.

    So, you're out from something that got you on the sex offender list. You've served five years and have no inclination toward recidivism. You accidentally send an email to your mom from a friend's account extolling the virtues of Rhubarb and suddenly you're hit with twenty-years' backup time, plus a new charge adding an additional ten years for using an unregistered email address.

    A friend of mine didn't get the notice a court fee didn't post and his license was suspended. So, driving four miles per hour under the limit, he got stopped and they informed him of the suspension. Welcome to fifteen years backup plus another one... for a paperwork mistake.

    These laws aren't meant to keep people who truly are dangerous off the streets. They're designed to hold a de facto life sentence over anyone convicted of any crime and ensure that Corrections Corp. of America experiences perpetual "market expansion."

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:10PM (#25391961)

    The real irony in many ways is that Niccolò Macchiavelli was actually very much a republican (as in, one who favors the republic as a form of governance :), but one who understood that the republic can falter. The New Yorker posted an interesting (and long) look at his life [newyorker.com] last month, which is worth the read for anyone interested. Machiavelli's possibly most well-known work, Il Principe [gutenberg.org], can indeed come across as archetypically "machiavellian" (as we use the term today), but reading it more closely brings to light advice to would-be rulers that they cannot be callous, ruthless bastards and expect to hold onto their jobs for very long. Some choice quotes, courtesy the linked article:

    A prince must have the people on his side, otherwise he will not have support in adverse times.

    A prince need not worry unduly about conspiracies when the people are well disposed toward him. But if they are his enemies and hate him, he must fear everything and everybody.

    The best fortress for the prince is to be loved by his people.

    Ultimately, the current strategy in the US of criminalizing broad swaths of otherwise harmless behaviour and locking up everyone who disagrees with the movers and shakers is pretty far from Machiavelli's advice to would-be rulers, given the mounting discontent this generates. Machiavelli actually comes across a bit as an old-school Taoist (in terms of Lao-zi, not Zhuang-zi) -- keep the people fat, happy, and dumb, and they will be easy to rule. Pissing them off and depriving them of common liberties left and right just isn't a smart move.


  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:26PM (#25392191)

    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.

    If your kids are being diddled, chances are it's someone you know - the stereotypical pedo in a van is exceedingly rare, and your kids aren't that sexy.

    That said, this is a SO registry, not a pedo registry, so I don't see what help it is barring someone who mooned the wrong guy from myspace is going to do.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:48PM (#25392413)
    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


    Have you ever taken a look at your county's registry of sex offenders?

    It tends to strip away any illusions you might have about how these men came to make the list.

    It wasn't for pissing in the park:

    From upstate New York:

    Victims: Females Ages 1, 4, 7, and 10
    Attempted sexual intercourse
    MoreThanOnce Deviate Sexual Intercourse
    MoreThanOnce Sexual Contact
    MoreThanOnce Promoting/Possessing Sexual Performance by a Child
    Force used: Threat
    Computer used: Yes
    Pornography involved: Yes

  • by ssstraub ( 581289 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @09:54PM (#25393473)
    I took your challenger and looked up my county's registry of sex offenders and here's the first one I found (entirely at random) and it looks quite a bit like "pissing in the park" to me:

    Appearance White Male; age 36; 5 ft. 7 in. tall; 145 pounds; Brown hair; Brown eyes

    Sex Offender Registration Offenses:

    Failure to Register as a Sex Offender 01/22/2007

    Indecent Exposure 08/15/2005
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:04PM (#25393947)

    Let's examine the last part of this shall we?

    Force used: Threat
    Computer used: Yes
    Pornography involved: Yes

    What is so special about computers and pornography?

    How about we also include other entries to vilify baselessly through connection with child abuse.

    Public roads used: yes

    Oh you use the interstate? *whisper*it's probably one of those perverts, you know the ones, get steph up to her room*whisper*

    Late Model Automobile used: yes
    Briefcase used: Yes
    Designer Suit used: yes
    Perscription eyeglasses used: yes

    Now instead of vilifying computer geeks, suddenly every corporate executive, doctor, and lawyer will be eyed as a potential threat to the innocence of your child.

    For another, quite realistic example:
    Cross used: Yes
    Collar used: Yes
    Communion wafers used: Yes

  • by H310iSe ( 249662 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @11:30PM (#25394093)

    Is our current system one which reforms? I agree with the OP we should reintroduce corporal punishments & shamings IF we continue with our current system. If we did effective reform in the penal system then I'd feel otherwise. As it stands, people find future time a bit abstract, I'm not sure people really know what 10 years in jail is (either those threatened with it or those who assign the penalties (lawmakers, the body politic) but they have a more concrete idea about what getting your palm horribly burned is. Maybe punishments would be more fair (both less and more harsh depending on the crime, I think some crimes are horribly overpunished and others underpunished) if the punishment was something people more accurately understood.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:56AM (#25394751) Homepage Journal

    "better 1,000 guilty go free than one innocent suffer wrongfully"

    I very much agree with that sentiment in principle. In practice, though, the second one person dies because a judge was too lax on a convicted felon, the reactionaries come out of the woodwork and laws get passed. Maybe we just need a law that says that no law shall be passed in anger---a statutory waiting period before passing a law stemming from or named after the victim of a crime.... :-)

  • Re:The point is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:02AM (#25394833) Homepage Journal

    I've noticed a huge increase in the "we'll get you one way or another" type of laws ever since private industry got hold of the prison system. D'ya think there just might be some lobbying and conflict of interest there, hmmmm??

    Example: CA Prop 6, on this November's ballot, would make it a felony to fail to register with police if you're a gang member. (For this post, we'll ignore the fact that it's unconstitutional as it violates the right of freedom of assembly.) Now, what good is such a law? It means that if you get picked up on suspicion, but there is NO EVIDENCE that you committed a crime, they can still get you if you're an "unregistered" gang member.

    An existing law makes it a felony to "injure" or "interfere with" a police dog "in pursuit of its duty". So if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, a cop sics his dog on you, and you quite reasonably defend yourself against that dog (who clearly wants to rip your arm off) by giving the dog a swift kick, you've just committed a felony, EVEN THO UNTIL THAT MOMENT YOU HAD COMMITTED NO CRIME.

    Recent laws are full of crap like that. Cue Ayn Rand....

  • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:32AM (#25395925) Homepage

    "The Prince" was spectacularly bad advice. Anyone following it would surely disgrace not only themselves in the end, but also their families for generations to come. Families like the Medicci. His advice is basically: arm the citizens, emulate the tyrant son of the Pope, Cesare Borgia, and to appoint people who opposed you as advisors. This is a recipe for failure, amusingly justified throughout the book.

    Under no circumstance does "The Prince" advocate keeping the people fat, happy and dumb. He advocates cultivating fear, since no action can be undertaken to be loved. He says it's better to be a miser than give to the people and risk being hated. He doesn't say much about keeping the people dumb, other than to say that deceiving them is okay. The quotes you offer are missing the context that basically, a prince has little control over making things "best" so here's a different method that's good enough. They're also subject to the wishes of translators, who perhaps bring in a small portion of their own bias to the work.

    Machiavelli is a guy who wished to see the states of Italy returned to their former Roman republican glory. But the Prince was either a weapon to trick the Princes, or a satire that few people have the experience to recognize. You have no need to cite the least democratic writing to demonstrate his affinity -- he's written a massive volume on republics! [wikipedia.org]

  • by aldousd666 ( 640240 ) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @08:33AM (#25398059) Journal
    Why the hell not? They get cheap free meals out of it. What the hell is wrong with having them work while they sit and ponder their predicament?

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.