While John McCain may not be the most technically savvy individual, a bill that he proposed called “Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008” was approved yesterday by President Bush. The bill requires registered sex offenders to provide their e-mail addresses to a national database which is then made available to social networking sites.
This afternoon, Chris Kelly of Facebook announced that Facebook would support this act. While this act is a great step forward, there are definitely a few issues with the law. First of all, the act does not prevent first time offenders from browsing the web and pursuing children. The second issue is that it’s relatively easy to set up multiple e-mail accounts.
One thing that Chris Kelly highlights is that “The penalties and consequences for registrants violating KIDS’ provisions are so severe, we hope they’ll deter potential predators from coming online altogether.” I’m not sure if increasing the severity of penalties will be sufficient but we can at least be hopeful. Ultimately the best step would be automated systems which can predict potential sexual predators within networks.
The only problem with automated systems is that there could be privacy issues and protecting user privacy is one of Facebook’s primary concerns. It will be interesting to see what effect these new policies have in protecting users on Facebook.