Vt. mulls ban on aliases online for sex offenders

Feb 12, 2011 By DAVE GRAM , Associated Press
A Facebook page is seen on a computer on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 in Montpelier, Vt. Vermont lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it a crime for convicted sex offenders to use fake names on social networking sites like Facebook. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

(AP) -- Vermont lawmakers are considering making it a crime for convicted sex offenders to use false names on social media sites like Facebook, after one such incident was reported in the state.

Only two states have related measures, said Erik Fitzpatrick, a lawyer on the research staff for the Vermont Legislature: New York and Illinois bar convicted from using at all as a condition of their probation. The National Conference of State Legislatures was unaware of similar laws or pending legislating in other states.

A former teacher at a school for boys who had committed sex crimes told a state Senate committee Friday that he spotted a Facebook profile last fall with a picture of a former student in the program who was using an alias.

Chuck Laramie, the former teacher, said the 26-year-old man had become Facebook friends with 14- and 15-year-old girls.

The man was convicted in 2004 of sexual assault, defined in Vermont law as engaging in a sex act with another person without that person's consent, and has not completed a sex offender treatment program, the state's online sex offender registry shows.

Laramie said he saw Facebook messages the man sent the girls, telling them he was "struggling with his sexuality and thinking he might be gay. Some of the girls were replying by saying, 'Oh, no, you're not.' He was getting these young girls to feel sympathy for him," Laramie said. "It was a classic grooming situation" in which sexual predators psychologically manipulate potential victims.

If the man were a sex offender trying not to re-offend, that was "an extremely high-risk situation to put yourself in," Laramie said.

Facebook takes extensive steps, including teams of internal investigators working with law enforcement agents around the country, when it detects people on its network behaving suspiciously, the company said in a statement. Contacting minors or users of predominantly one gender are seen as clues, and Facebook uses systems including a national database of convicted sex offenders to do real-time checks, the statement said.

"Protecting our users, especially the many children who use , has always been a top priority for us. We've devoted significant resources to developing innovative and complex systems to proactively monitor the site and its users," the company said.

Some state senators questioned whether Vermont could ban sex offenders from using computers altogether, but one, Sen. Jeanette White, a Windham Democrat, noted that many public services, such as applying for extended unemployment benefits, require using computers.

The bill under review would make the crime a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail. The committee said it would continue to consider the bill.

Explore further: Hackers trick way into ICANN computers

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook, MySpace ban New York sex offenders

Dec 01, 2009

Facebook and MySpace have closed the accounts of 3,533 convicted sex offenders in New York state under a law combating online predators, officials said Tuesday.

Facebook creates online safety board

Dec 07, 2009

(AP) -- Social networking site Facebook on Monday said it is creating a global safety advisory board to protect its users against online predators such as sex offenders.

Female sex offenders often have mental problems

May 14, 2008

Women who commit sexual offences are just as likely to have mental problems or drug addictions as other violent female criminals. This according to the largest study ever conducted of women convicted of sexual offences in ...

'App' maps homes of known sex offenders

Aug 13, 2009

Parents worried about sexual offenders have a new tool for when they're not at their computers: an iPhone app developed by a Longwood, Fla., company.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

5 hours ago

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

8 hours ago

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

9 hours ago

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.