MySpace agrees to give up sex offender data

MySpace has agreed to provide attorneys general offices in all U.S. states with information it has gathered on convicted sex offenders who have used its social networking site, the most popular of its kind.

The news from MySpace comes days after the business, owned by News Corp., tussled with several attorneys general who complained after MySpace refused to share this data with them.

Now, MySpace has apparently done an about face, after last week saying it couldn’t provide this data without breaking federal and state laws.

In addition to kicking out registered sex offenders from the social networking site, MySpace now will also provide information about them to attorneys general offices and to other law enforcement agencies, MySpace said Monday in a statement.

MySpace said that it found a way to provide this information after working with Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Roy Cooper of North Carolina. Blumenthal and Cooper were among the attorneys general who last week blasted MySpace over its refusal to turn over the data in question.

MySpace said on Monday that it wants to provide sex offender data “expeditiously” to attorneys general and law enforcement agencies so that it can be used in criminal investigations and probation or parole proceedings.

Using a program called Sentinel SAFE, MySpace mines data in its service and detects registered sex offenders among its members’ ranks, it said. The program was implemented this month “after an extensive period of development and testing,” MySpace said.

MySpace, a unit of Fox Interactive Media Inc., has been criticized for not providing enough safeguards for its members, many of them teenagers, so that they can be protected from online predators. MySpace rejects these criticisms.

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

North Carolina Attorney General Cooper said in a statement that he was “pleased to see MySpace step up to the plate and provide us with this very important information.”

Beyond that, Cooper said he is pushing for North Carolina to adopt a law requiring parental consent before children can join social networking sites and wants to ban sex offenders from these sites.

Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal said in a statement there are “at least” 5,000 registered sex offenders with MySpace profiles who pose “an immediate, urgent risk to children.”

“I am pleased that MySpace has heeded our demand, now by subpoena, to provide information about convicted sex offenders and confirm steps to remove them from the site,” Blumenthal said in his statement.

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