Sex Offenders and Social Networking

What can us regular citizens sitting in front of home computers do to prevent registered sex offenders from targeting new victims?

Chris Yarbrough over at the CrimeShadows News (CSN) has an innovative idea.  He refers to the concept as the CSN Smackdown and describes it this way:

Despite the very public efforts of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to eliminate profiles created by registered sex offenders, the sex offenders keep signing up. CSN Smackdown is a project aimed at countering sex offenders on these sites in a proactive way.

The goal is to locate sex offenders operating in our online neighborhoods and report them to the site administrators. When the sites remove these offending profiles, we think the Internet becomes a little bit safer.
He and another crime blogger who runs this site have already had more than 10 accounts for sex offenders removed from social networking sites.

For instance, they found that Christopher Dustrude is on the Montana Sexual Offender Registry after being convicted of a felony sex crime. He was also maintaining a MySpace page with, reportedly, lots of text describing himself in the hope of meeting someone special.

Dustrude's MySpace page was reported to the provider and deleted shortly thereafter. 

Several years ago, when my state first publicized a registered sex offender list, I remember finding three of the males listed also had active MySpace accounts.  I'll have to go back and research that group again.

An additional step could be to notify the law enforcement agency in charge of monitoring the offender of the social networking account--in case new criminal charges are warranted. 

In sum, Yarbrough's effort is an excellent example of how one person can contribute to making online and traditional communities safer.*


*Note:  I realize that sex offenders can still register with fictitious names or using only part of their identity on MySpace and Facebook, but I think at least the annoyance to these felons caused by the good folks over at CSN is time well spent.         


Dan said...

Modulo the obvious issues with false positives and unwarranted vigilantism, a good idea.

The Babaylan said...

speechless. how can we ever lock up these guys?

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

The world has turned into a scary, scary place!

Jayne said...

I may be misunderstanding something here - if Facebook etc delete an account because it looks suspect, don't they share that info with the police? If not, you're absolutely right - they should.

Entre Nous said...

Yew, can you imagine anyone replying to his ad, or actually talking to him on those social networking disastors!?

My friend and I used to go through the dating sights when we were bored.... "Oh, look, he looks like a serial killer..." "Look at this one, his bad rug appears to be on backwards..."

The comments got worse, as you can imagine, but the attitude stayed the same. There wasn't a high percentage of honest, kind looking faces. Handsome was definately a "No-Way." Do we remember Scott Peterson??????

Herding Cats said...

My middle school students will tell me that older men try to pick them up via Myspace. It's awful.

Candice said...

It's so hard to control what goes on over the web, isn't it? It's best to try to be careful with who we deal with online!

LisaF said...

Okay, I'm sorry but he just looks creepy, with or without a myspace/facebook page.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
The social networking shutdown should be done maybe by ISP number instead of name. Of course, that cuts out for instance library users or users at Kinko's (hmmmm, bad name choice, huh?). At least the ISP should be included in what's reported back to the police.

Is there a Central Agency for registering sex offenders? Or if you are noted in Arkansas and move to New Mexico, do we start all over?

I fear it is the latter.

Thanks for a great post on a troubling issue.

Ann T.

Momma Fargo said...

Well...they are little worms wherever they go. Ick. And you know what the first thing I thought when I saw his pic...

Even if your post hadn't been about sex offenders...sometimes you can just tell.

The internet alarms me for my little Bug. Guess I'm going to have to be a huge internet monitor when the time comes.

BobKat said...

Excellent topic. The thing is, I'd almost believe the web is safer than the real world. Thought provoking topic.

East of Eton said...

there should be a way (just like in online gaming communities) of blocking someone's ISP address. Now I know this won't "stop" an individual from engaging in this type of behavior/activity BUT they will not be able to conduct/engage in the privacy of their own homes

East of Eton said...

there should be a way (just like in online gaming communities) of blocking someone's ISP address. Now I know this won't "stop" an individual from engaging in this type of behavior/activity BUT they will not be able to conduct/engage in the privacy of their own homes

Alex said...

You're right that sex offenders can still register with fictitious names or using only part of their identity on MySpace and Facebook or other social networking sites.

We have to be extra cautious and vigilant dealing with people online. I think the best defense against these people are educating ourselves and our children about them.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

If the sex offender registers under a fake name, how would the average user know s/he was a sex offender?

Nicole, RD said...

Scary. Stuff. Being a parent today is the hardest job, there's so many things to worry about and shelter kids from. While it's not a full-proof system, it's something! Thanks for sharing! I use that Watch Dog site to look for convicted predators any time I research a property. SO useful! Scary, but useful!

Jeanette K. said...

I would hope most kids would have the sense to not talk to these people anyway. I know when I was young and online, my friends and I would never take creepos like this guy seriously. *shudder*

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the feedback all.

@ Dan: I like that this approach to me really does not involve vigilantism as it advocates reporting the potential violators to the site admins (and allowing them to make a determination) and not dealing with anyone directly.

@ Jayne: I am not aware of Facebook or Myspace sharing information about sex offenders when it just involves them operating an account. Police usually have to get a court order to understand the specifics of what offenders are doing on these sites.

@ Entre Nous: I think I do the same thing with the daily arrest photos online. It can be tough to evaluate someone's potential to be violent using only a photo though.

@ Herding Cats: I bet--yuck.

@ Ann T & East of Eton: Good point with the ISP blocking--not 100% but better than what is done now which is little. Each state does its own thing with sex offender registries, and is likely the reason why so many of the violators are unaccounted for.

@ Katherine: Good question--it is not being done now and there is no acceptble answer to your question.

@ Nicole RD: Those search sites can be helpful.

@ Jeanette: Yeah, the Internet continues to resemble the Wild West in lawlessness.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Here's something interesting from a Facebook cause that I joined:

Bulletin from the cause: Dont Allow Registered Sex Offenders on Facebook!!!
Go to Cause
Posted By: Weldon Thomas
To: Members in Dont Allow Registered Sex Offenders on Facebook!!!
Pedro Phile has been removed from Facebook and Myspace

Thanks to everyone that helped remove these pages from Facebook. Pedro Phile (File) may create a new page but we will be right there to have it removed. The original page I posted was also taken down by my corporate office because some people complained that it was too offensive due to Pedro Phile's comments.

So I have cleaned up the page and here it is again with updates:

If you know of a page that needs to be investigated let us know.

Please note that we cannot take action unless they have an offensive online presence or a registered sex offender.

Also keep watch to the right of this bulletin in the MOST WATCHED MEDIA section for news and updates on cases we are working on.

Thank you,

Admin for "Don't Allow Registered Sex Offenders on Facebook"
"You did make a difference"

Slamdunk said...

@ Katherine: Thanks for posting this information. I had not seen it before--someone taking action against offenders as well.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me I remember hearing of a state in the North East that had more than 9700 new sex offense arrest in one year (2009 maybe). Of that number a MASSIVE 4 were initiated via the internet through social sites. Exactly what we need, spend millions protecting the youth from from less than 1% of the threat while the other 99.9%+ prowl around unobstructed.

Statistically, a child will be harmed/offended by a family member or a close family friend long before any one from the internet as 95% of those victims knew their offender. Note too that 80% of the registered sex offenders in the U.S. had no contact with a minor when committing the crime for which they were convicted and forced to register.

Personally, I think Social Sites (FaceBook or MySPace) should allow sex offenders to use the social network(s). Just add a tag in their database to identify the offender(s). The only ones that get booted are using their real names and not a threats anyway. The threat would be from those that use an anonymous name and they're STILL on the Social Sites.

Anonymous said...

Christopher is my nephew. I/we wanted for him to be in a mental institution for many years but brainy medical tests failed him. He's barely sane. He shouldn't keep being tortured for teen screw-ups. He needs help! He went to jail as a teen because of my kids, only after he admitted on his own that he did things to my children. We didn't want to press charges because he was already in treatment. I/my children were forced by the City of Great Falls to make a report after I spoke to my counselor. This young man was brought up by a mother who's mentally ill/fetal alcohol syndrome and now lives on the streets. He's been through pure hell from the time of birth. He was born with the cord wrapped around his neck. The system has failed him in many ways. I want for him to be in an institution so he doesn't have to keep running because people try to kill him. Knock it off people!!! You don't know the whole story. This really upsets me and my family. I don't wish anymore hell on him, GOT IT!!!