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States ask MySpace to ID sex offenders

Website was building a database of names

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Top law enforcement officers from eight states yesterday asked to turn over the names of registered sex offenders who use the social networking website.

In a letter, the attorneys general asked MySpace to provide information on how many registered sex offenders are using the site, and where they live. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper signed the letter, along with attorneys general from Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

In a statement, Cooper's office said media outlets in 2006 "reported almost 100 criminal incidents across the country involving adults who used MySpace to prey or attempt to prey on children."

In December, MySpace said it was partnering with Sentinel Tech Holding Corp. to build a database with information on sex offenders in the United States. Software to identify and remove sex offenders from the site was launched in early May, MySpace officials said yesterday in a statement.

"It is our understanding that the data from Sentinel reveals that thousands of known sex offenders have been confirmed as MySpace members," the letter from the attorneys general said.

In an interview, Cooper said the information was provided by "absolutely credible" sources, whom he declined to identify.

The attorneys general also asked that MySpace describe the steps it has taken to warn users about sex offenders and remove their profiles. They asked the website to respond by May 29.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the site a "virtual playground" for predators. "That combination of sex offenders and children is a recipe for tragedy," Blumenthal said.

The site is owned by media conglomerate News Corp. Yesterday, MySpace did not say whether it would comply with the request.

"We are in the initial stages of cross referencing our membership against Sentinel's registered sex offender database and removing any confirmed matches," Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief security officer, said.

Nigam also said legislation requiring sex offenders to register e-mail addresses would expedite the process.

MySpace and other social networking sites allow users to create online profiles with photos, music, and personal information, including hometowns and education. Users can send messages to one another and, in many cases, browse other profiles.