A push is under way to restrict registrants from social networking, virtual gaming and online dating
Imagine a little boy playing Xbox Live with a registered sex offender, a girl striking up a Facebook friendship with a child molester, a Match.com member going on a date with a convicted rapist. These are just a few of the both real world and imagined scenarios that have inspired attempts in recent weeks to restrict registered sex offenders from social networking, virtual gaming and online dating.
The aim of these approaches is understandable, but their effectiveness is questionable, and some experts see potential for it to backfire. What’s more, the breadth of these restrictions, and the inexactness of who is targeted, raise an issue unlikely to garner much sympathy: fairness to sex offenders.
On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that through an initiative dubbed “Operation: Game Over,” several major gaming companies had removed the profiles of more than 3,500 registered sex offenders in the state. The day before, a Louisiana bill forbidding registered sex offenders from using social networking sites was approved by a state House committee. (A similar bill was signed into law in Illinois in 2009 and put on hold in California in 2011.) Late last month, Match.com, eHarmony and the Spark Networks signed a “joint statement of business principles” to attempt to screen out registered sex offenders.