The power of the Internets.
Quick, somebody give our lawmakers a crash course in computer technology. From the same part of the legislative brain that brought you computer voting machines comes a proposed law to have sex offenders register their e-mail addresses and instant-message screen names.
Here’s how the plan would work: After the state obtained a predator’s
e-mail addresses, officials would turn them over to MySpace. The
company, using new software, would then block anyone using that e-mail
address from entering the site.
Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law, which
advocates for reporting requirements, applauded the concept but
questioned how it would be enforced.
“It would be effective for
those offenders who have registered that e-mail address. But it is easy
to change your e-mail address. You can change your e-mail address in 30
seconds,” Ahearn said.
Well, yes, that’s precisely the problem, isn’t it? Same goes for screen names. This is an emotionally satisfying legal proposal that is in fact almost completely useless–unless, of course, the goal is to catch recidivist sexual predators who are clueless about computers. Lawmakers, repeat after me: Technology is not a panacea. Technology is not a panacea. Technology is not a panacea…
P.S. Are you wondering about whether such requirements violate these criminals’ civil liberties? Fear not:
One measure, which took effect July 1, requires Virginia’s public
and private colleges and universities to submit the names and Social
Security numbers of tens of thousands of students to the state police
for cross-checking against sexual offender registries.
libertarians have challenged the constitutionality of such registries.
But McDonnell, who hopes other Web sites popular with children and
young adults follow MySpace’s lead, dismissed such suggestions Monday.
are certainly going to put public safety ahead of these civil liberties
concerns,” said McDonnell, who pointed to studies that show a high
recidivism rate among sex offenders.