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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Well, They've Stepped In It Again

The Roanoke Times editorial team is seething with rage this morning and is breathing fire. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell has chosen, according to the Times, for the worst of all reasons - politics! - to invade the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans:

Lay off MySpace

Suppose you are an attorney general planning to run for governor in a few years. You're going to keep your name in the press as much as possible and jump on whatever overhyped cause grabs the public's attention. Case in point: Eight state attorneys general this week targeted the Web site MySpace.com for allegedly hoarding a list of known sex offenders.

The attorneys general, including Virginia's Bob McDonnell, believe MySpace has assembled a list of registered sex offenders who use the social networking site. In a letter Monday, the officials demanded that the company turn over information about those offenders and explain what it is doing to warn users and remove the profiles.

When did it become a private company's job to do law enforcement's work?

McDonnell and friends are, in some sense, doing their job, trying to protect vulnerable children. It's too bad headlines and press releases seem to control which children they choose to work hardest to protect. (link)
Wow. Bob McDonnell must feel really ashamed about now. Rotten bastard.

Oh, wait. One tiny little problem. Bob McDonnell didn't do what he's accused of here. The Times is as wrong as it could be.

From J. Tucker Martin, Director of Communications, Office of Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, via email:

One problem. Bob McDonnell DID NOT sign this letter. In fact he expressly declined to sign, as he found this solution to be impossible, and that it did not represent the proper manner by which governments and the private sector should work together.

I am at a loss as to where the Roanoke Times editorial writers got the idea we signed this letter. They did not call here to ask us. And they must not have read the official release announcing the letter, which I have reprinted for you below. They also must not have checked the news reports:

(WVEC.com: "NC among 8 states asking MySpace.com for registered sex offender names")

That article is the basic AP, but WVEC was kind enough to contact me for comment as to why we declined to sign this letter. I appreciated their calling. [ouch]

There you have it. It appears The Roanoke Times ed board approved and ran a piece that is absolutely factually incorrect. I will be calling the paper shortly, but ..


AG Cooper seeks info about possible thousands of sex offenders on MySpace

AGs demand that MySpace turn over the names of convicted sex offenders the company knows are on its site

Raleigh: MySpace needs to turn over the names of potentially thousands of registered sex offenders the company has identified on its website, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.

Cooper and a group of other state attorneys general believe that data from Sentinel Tech Holdings, a company working with MySpace, indicate that thousands of known sex offenders may have been confirmed as MySpace members. In a letter sent today to MySpace, six state attorney generals asked the company to provide the names and states of all registered sex offenders with profiles on its social networking site.

“MySpace is a treasure trove of potential victims for child predators,” said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. “Sex offenders have no business being on this site, and we believe MySpace has a responsibility to get them off the site.”

Today’s letter requests that MySpace tell the attorneys general by May 29 how many registered sex offenders have been found on its site and what steps the company has taken to remove them from the site. In addition the letter asks MySpace to provide details on what it has done to alert other MySpace users who have communicated with these offenders, and also to alert law enforcement about these offenders.

Cooper and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal are leading a group of attorneys general from 50 states and territories who have been pushing MySpace to do a better job protecting children from dangers on its site such as sexual predators and inappropriate content.

Correction: [In 2006 alone, the media reported almost 100 criminal incidents across the country involving adults who used MySpace to prey or attempt to prey on children.] In North Carolina, a former sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006 for molesting a 15-year-old Cary boy he met on MySpace. In 2006, the NC State Bureau of Investigation arrested a Boiling Spring Lakes police officer for raping a 14-year-old girl he lured through MySpace.

Both North Carolina and Connecticut and a handful of other states are currently pushing legislation that would require social networking sites including MySpace to get parents’ permission before letting children join. Cooper is also pushing a measure that would make it a felony for convicted sex offenders to join social networking sites where children are members.

Today’s letter was signed by attorneys general from Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. A copy of the letter is attached.

Noelle Talley
Public Information Officer
NC Department of Justice
(919) 716-6484

[my emphasis]

Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.

The phone lines must not be working between Richmond and Roanoke ...

Or the email server at the Times must be down ...

Or, with the postal rates having just increased, maybe they decided to save the newspaper money, and chose to not send a letter via snail mail to the attorney general to obtain verification ...

Or the Times editorialists are so blinded by hate that they trusted MoveOn.org for their information and chose to ignore our attorney general - their attorney general - when writing this stunning error-plagued rant.

With shades of the keystone kops atmosphere that was created with their release of the names of all those handgun concealed carry permit holders here in the commonwealth that got them in three kinds of trouble just a few weeks ago (and the resultant furious backpedaling), this should keep the boys over at the Times answering the phone and putting out corrections for a good length of time.

How embarrassing.


Take a quick look, folks. My guess is this editorial is soon to disappear to the recycle bin.

Update: Alton is on their case too: "It's odd that an editorial board that firmly believes that another law is all it takes to reduce gun violence would ridicule a common sense Attorney General such as we have in Virginia."