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AG wants names of MySpace-using sex offenders

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is asking officials at the popular social networking Web site MySpace.com for the names of sex offenders the company says it has identified and expelled from its site.

Swanson is requesting the names of sex offenders with Minnesota ties and said the information will be shared with local authorities. That could help stop offenders from linking up with MySpace’s 180 million devotees, many of whom are teenagers.

The attorney general sent a letter to MySpace on Tuesday requesting names from the Minnesota registry or those on other states’ registries who have used Minnesota addresses.

"Due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, social networking sites such as MySpace.com provide sexual predators with unprecedented access to children," she said. "They’re really con men using the Net to develop rapport with unsuspecting kids."

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MySpace announced last week that it would assist officials in all 50 states and provide this information.

For some offenders, posting a profile on MySpace or other such sites could violate conditions of their release and send them back to prison, Swanson said. More than 100 criminal incidents have been reported in the media in the past year involving adults who linked up with minors using MySpace.com, according to Swanson’s office.

Last July, Ronald Abshire, 30, of Inver Grove Heights, was sentenced to three years in prison for third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year-old St. Paul girl he contacted on MySpace. He earlier was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in Washington County.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested the same information from the Los Angeles-based company. The list of 584 included 19 who were in prison and another 17 were on parole, according to Madigan’s office.

Facing increasing allegations of facilitating sexual predators’ search for new victims, MySpace developed its own software to match registered offenders nationwide with its database of user profiles. The hits started coming as soon as the effort was launched in early May.

While the number of sex offenders known to have used MySpace may surprise some, authorities believe it may be only a fraction of those whose profiles don’t use their real names and can’t be matched to offender registries.

This year, at Swanson’s urging, Minnesota legislators passed a bill making it a felony for an adult to send sexual communications to a minor or to groom a minor for sexual contact over the Internet. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed it into law on May 7.

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