NEW YORK (Reuters) - The online networking site MySpace has identified and barred some 90,000 registered sex offenders from using the site over the last two years, MySpace revealed to an investigative task force on Tuesday.
The “shocking” number was 40,000 more than MySpace had previously acknowledged, according to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a co-chairman of the task force of state attorneys general looking into sex offenders’ use of social networking.
MySpace, owned by News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media digital division, disclosed the figures to the task force in response to a subpoena.
“This shocking revelation, resulting from our subpoena, provides compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
Blumenthal’s office said it was awaiting a response to a similar subpoena issued to Facebook, another popular social networking site that his office said also might host “substantial numbers of convicted offenders.”
Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly said in a statement it was working with Blumenthal’s office but said the site had “not yet had to handle a case of a registered sex offender meeting a minor through Facebook.”
“Unlike MySpace or other social networking sites, Facebook has always enforced a real-name culture and has developed and deployed social verification and powerful privacy rules that allow people to interact in a safer and more trusted environment,” the statement said.
Two years ago, MySpace commissioned background verification firm Sentinel Safe Tech Holdings Corp. to create a national database of sex offenders after reports that some of its teenage users were abducted by sex predators.
Sentinel operates a U.S. database of sex offenders that includes as many as 120 details for each offender, from their names and addresses to their scars and tattoos, Sentinel Chief Executive John Cardillo said.
Before the national database was created, information on convicted sex offenders was available only locally.
MySpace said on Tuesday the technology had enabled it to identify 90,000 users as registered sex offenders — people who have been found guilty of sex crimes and ordered to register with law enforcement officials — and had removed and blocked them from the site.
“We can confirm that MySpace has removed these individuals from our site and is providing data about these offenders to any law enforcement agency including the Attorney General’s in Connecticut,” MySpace’s Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam said in a statement.
Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Philip Barbara