Virginia AG Pushes Social-Network Legislation

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell said Tuesday he plans to introduce state legislation to require convicted sex offenders in Virginia to register their e-mail addresses and instant-messaging handles with the state’s sex-offender registry.

According to McDonnell, Virginia is the first state to make such a proposal and comes after discussions with Virginia’s Youth Internet Safety Task Force.

A member who represents MySpace told the group about the site’s initiative seeking federal legislation that would require convicted sex offenders to register all of their e-mail addresses in a national sex-offender database.

Virginia decided to support the initiative, push for state legislation and add instant-messaging handles as part of the law.

“We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st Century, it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or IM screen names,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Last week, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) said they would introduce federal legislation requiring all registered sex offenders to submit their e-mail addresses to law enforcement officials.

McDonnell said it was important to support the idea on the state level.

“It is critical that states take this step, as the vast majority of prosecutions and convictions for sex offenders take place at the state level,” he said. “This is not a foolproof approach, as we all fully realize how easy it is to get new e-mail addresses.”

Nevertheless, McDonnell said, by creating penalties for failure to register e-mail addresses and instant message names, “We will take another positive step.”

Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace’s chief security officer, praised the Virginia initiative.

“This legislation is an important recognition that the Internet has become a community as real as any other neighborhood and is in need of similar safeguards,” he said in a statement. “Its passage will be a landmark moment in the history of Internet safety.”

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