The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 23, 2007

Monitor MySpace, offender says

By Damian Gessel

Editor's note: The Daily Item is withholding the name of the MySpace user in this article. For the purposes of this story, he has been referred to as "John."

SUNBURY -- John's MySpace page is a snapshot into the life of someone who appears to be a typical 27-year-old.

A foamy Budweiser emblem spashes across the background. An image of a yellow and black Mustang sits below "EMT" and "Fire Rescue" symbols. Several band logos -- Godsmack, AC/DC, Rob Zombie -- flicker across the screen. A picture of his newborn daughter anchors the page.

But John, a convicted sex offender, is exactly who Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett is now striving to remove from Myspace.com, the 180-million-user social networking Web site.

Attorney General Corbett announced last week that Pennsylvania would join seven other states in petitioning Myspace's administrators to provide data on sex offenders using the site. In a May 18 press release, Mr. Corbett said releasing information about sex offenders using Myspace could help law enforcement identify and apprehend sexual predators and potentially prevent future incidents.

John, a volunteer firefighter, says he uses Myspace only to talk with former classmates and his fiancee.

"You can search for your high school and pull up a list of your old classmates," he told The Daily Item on Monday, the day Myspace -- after initially hesitating -- decided to comply with the attorneys general's joint request.

John was convicted of possession of child pornography in October of 2006. A search of his Myspace "friends" list reveals no one under the age of 18.

The Sunbury man said he agrees there should be better surveillance on the social networking site.

"People should be at least 18 to use it," he said. "If they find illegal activity, they should be banned."

Anthony Rosini, Northumberland County district attorney, said he supports Attorney General Corbett's decision to take Myspace to task.

"Unfortunately, there are many predators who use the Internet to prey on younger children," he said. "I think what Mr. Corbett is trying to do is just attain the information of where they are. More information is always a better thing."

Mr. Rosini said he was recently involved with the attorney general's office in educating Line Mountain Elementary pupils about the dangers of the Internet.

"Every chatroom that they go into has at least one predator. We need to educate our children that there are bad places on the Internet," he said. "We tell kids the problem with the Internet is you don't know who the person on the other end of the computer is."

John's Myspace counter states he hasn't visited the Web site in nearly two months. He asserts he doesn't use it for anything illicit.

Still, John says he thinks sexual predators use the Web site "as a target."

"My kids won't be allowed to use the computer without me around," he said.