Sentinel CEO and America’s Right contributor John Cardillo assists in booting 90,000 sex offenders from MySpace site, eyes Facebook as ‘safe haven’
If Internet perverts everywhere felt a great disturbance in the Force today, it’s because social networking giant MySpace released a statement proclaiming that 90,000 sex offenders have been identified and kicked off its Web site with the help of Sentinel, a Miami-based Internet security firm specializing in online crime and predator detection, online child safety, and the protection of Internet end users from criminals and sexual predators. While that number is almost twice as many as originally disclosed last year, Internet-cruising children, pre-teens and teenagers everywhere may not be entirely that much safer.
“Without much effort at all on our part, we were able to look at Facebook and locate more than 8,000 of the offenders we kicked off of MySpace, but I expect that the actual amount is 15 or 20 times that number,” says Sentinel CEO John Cardillo, a former NYPD officer and America’s Right contributor. “It’s troubling that offenders who have been kicked off of other sites seem to have found a home at Facebook.”
In May 2008, Facebook announced its “Key Principles Of Social Networking Safety,” incorporating among other things increased cooperation with law enforcement and the implementation of site-specific technology and safeguards aimed at protecting younger Facebook users, as part of a promise made to attorneys general in 49 states to remove “profiles of all registered sex offenders.”
Obviously, says Cardillo, it didn’t work, and our nation’s children are less safe for it. Furthermore, he says, with its 150 million users at a cost of less than a penny per user, Facebook would only face a cost of less than $1 million to use Sentinel’s software and do the right thing. Developing their own software, according to Cardillo, could turn out to be cheaper yet. Either way, the profiles of 8,487 offenders who appear to have made the migration from MySpace to Facebook–or at least have maintained a presence there–is proof positive that something must be done.
“This only shows how easy it is for these offenders to slip into the shadows and mingle with the crowd,” Cardillo says. “And while I’m not a fan of an overreaching federal government, it does highlight the need for surgical intervention as a way of monitoring some of the more dangerous members of our society, and how they interact with the most vulnerable among us.”
One of the ways the government can proactively get involved is through careful legislation. On October 13, 2008, President Bush signed into law U.S. Senate Bill 431, better known as the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008, or the KIDS Act. The KIDS Act was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer in January of 2007 and, like its counterpart in the House of Representatives, passed unanimously with broad support from both parties.
This, my friends, is one instance where bipartisanship and government intervention truly is good for America and the American people. Furthermore, in an age of legislation which looks more and more like lost Tolstoy epics, the KIDS Act is fairly straightforward. From the non-partisan Congressional Research Service:
Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008 or the KIDS Act of 2008 – Directs the Attorney General to: (1) require sex offenders to provide to the National Sex Offender Registry all Internet identifiers (i.e., email addresses and other designations used for self-identification or routing in Internet communication or posting) used by such offenders; (2) specify requirements for keeping Internet identifier information current; (3) exempt Internet identifiers provided by a sex offender from public disclosure; and (4) establish procedures to notify sex offenders of changes in requirements for providing Internet identifier information.
Requires the Attorney General to establish and maintain a secure system to allow social networking websites to compare information contained in the National Sex Offender Registry with the Internet identifiers of users of their websites. Allows social networking websites to use such system to conduct searches as frequently as the Attorney General may allow. Authorizes the Attorney General to deny, suspend, or terminate use of the system by a social networking website for misuse.
Prohibits the Attorney General and social networking websites from releasing to the public any list of the Internet identifiers of sex offenders.
Exempts a social networking website from civil claims in federal or state court arising from: (1) use of the National Sex Offender Registry unless such website engages in actual malice, intentional misconduct, or reckless disregard to a substantial risk of causing injury without legal justification; and (2) any decision not to compare its database with the online identifiers contained in the National Sex Offender Registry.
Drawing from his own experience, Cardillo believes that, if properly and efficiently implemented, the KIDS Act “would provide a tremendously helpful tool to law enforcement and private industry to safeguard Internet end users.”
Basically, the KIDS Act boils down to the congressional facilitation of a two-pronged approach to keeping our children safe from sexual predators as they use the Internet, specifically the extremely popular social networking Web sites like MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, and more. The prong with which his company is most involved is the “technological prong,” featuring several complimentary technologies deployed in an attempt to create a single, robust, imbedded solution. The other prong, Cardillo says, is the “people approach,” which involves not only Congress, but also law enforcement, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private industry and, most importantly, parents.
“I think industry is doing well with a few exceptions, as is our government,” Cardillo says. “Law enforcement does an outstanding job, but needs help from our government in terms of manpower and funding. Non-governmental organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children do a great job, but they rely on government and industry for funding, and on law enforcement for ‘teeth.’ Parents are the key, and as of now are not doing the job they should in both educating themselves in terms of online hazards, and monitoring their kids’ Internet experiences.”
Parents, Cardillo says, are the first line of defense, but he hopes that all groups will be able to work in concert, and with the help of technology, ensure that the end result is a positive one.
“It’s all about education and awareness,” he says. “We do a great job of catching known bad guys but, for end users, the same rules apply as they do in the real world. Don’t talk to strangers; tell a friend, parent or teacher where you’re going and who you’re meeting; get to know people before letting them into your world, and if you’re a kid, make sure your parents or guardians get to know them as well.”