child molesters a serious problem in Michigan
on sex offender registry using MySpace,
social networking sites"
May 13, 2010
Convicted sex offender Adrian Hill is not the only Michigan resident
convicted of sexual crimes against children who is involved in social
networking. A private investigator who has tracked sex offenders on
MySpace says there are likely hundreds more people convicted of crimes
against children who are using social networking sites to meet people —
and Michigan law does not prevent them from doing so.
the case of a west Michigan man convicted in 2002, at age 22, of
attempted Criminal Sexual Conduct 3rd Degree with a victim between 13
and 15 years of age. Like Adrian Hill, this offender is not compliant
with registration laws according to the Michigan State Police Sex
this offender and his failure to comply with registration rules has not
stopped him from using a MySpace.com account. There, his profile page
introduces him as “the one your mother warned you about.” His account
shows he has 11 friends, including the site’s founder, Tom. Of the 10
other friends, two are men, and the remainder are women. The women
range in age from 39 to 14. Two of the women are 17, one is 18.
investigation by Steven
Rambam, a private detective with Pallorium, an international
investigative firm in New York City, has uncovered and
verified the identity of over 200 registered sex offenders from
Michigan’s sex offender registry currently using MySpace.com — and that
was just a partial search, ended after they found the first couple
more widely known for his extensive history as a Nazi hunter, shared
the results of that investigation last week with Michigan Messenger, as
well as his methodology for verifying the identities of probable
he also shared that information with the office of Attorney General
Mike Cox, the Michigan Messenger is not revealing the identities of any
of the sex offenders so as not to interfere with any possible criminal
investigation. John Selleck, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox,
did not return multiple calls by the Michigan Messenger seeking comment.
some of the offenders identified were not compliant with requirements
from the state in relation to the registry, others were in violation of
terms of their parole or probation which prohibited them from using a
computer or the internet. But the vast majority of the offenders are
not violating any law, Rambam explained, noting the state of Michigan
does not make it a crime for convicted sex offenders to use social
state Rep. Joe Haveman, a Republican from Holland, says he wants to
change that. He introduced legislation in 2009 to make it a crime for a
registered sex offender to have a social networking account. His bill
would make it a five year felony for a person convicted of a crime
against a minor, or a person the convicted offender thought was a
minor, to become involved in or use social networking sites which allow
minors to have accounts or access.
first responsibility should always fall on the parents to make sure
they know what their kids are involved in, but in today’s world that
just becomes increasingly difficult,” Haveman said. “We are not saying
it’s the state’s job to monitor what kids are doing on their computers
— that should be the parent’s responsibility — this is just an added
safeguard. We know that people who have had convictions, who have been
involved in crimes against minors — that they should stay off [social
networking sites on the internet].”
action has been taken on Haveman’s bill other than referring it to the
admits the legislation would not exclude those convicted of so-called
Romeo and Juliet crimes — a situation wherein high school sweethearts
who were within three years of each other’s age engage in consensual
sexual activity — would not be excluded under this legislation.
that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go back to that Romeo and Juliet
and see if specifically that should be changed as part of the sexual
registry and other issues,” Haveman said. “I just don’t think this bill
is the place to do it.”
Rep. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge, says he supports the
Haveman bill and wants to pass it as quickly as possible.
a huge concern. I truly believe that a convicted sex offender —
especially a convicted child molester — should not be able to get on
social networks such as Facebook and MySpace and contact children and
make dates,” says Jones, the former Eaton County Sheriff.
there is no evidence that any of these offenders has engaged in
inappropriate activity with minors through these accounts, Jones cited
photographs and messages on the MySpace accounts saying, “It’s obvious
… to me they’re attempting to attract people, especially children.”
investigation shows that steps previously announced by MySpace intended
to fix the problem of convicted pedophiles using their site have not
in 2009 announced that it was turning over the identity of 90,000
registered sex offenders it had kicked off MySpace and blocked. That
list was turned over to the Attorney General of Connecticut — but only
after he issued a subpoena for the list.
2008, MySpace struck a deal with attorneys general from 49 states —
Texas was a lone holdout — to strengthen its measures to remove sex
offenders and to protect youth from predators. Under that agreement,
the social network agreed to:
parents to submit a child’s email addresses to MySpace to prevent
from misusing the addresses to set up profiles.
• Make the
default setting “private” for 16- and 17-year-old users so they cannot
viewed by adults they don’t already know.
within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content and devote
more staff and resources to classify photographs and discussion groups.
Strengthen software against underage users.
• Create a
high school section for users under 18 years old.
2007, MySpace cracked down on registered sex offenders. In May of that
year, the company claims it removed 7,000 offenders and in June it says
it identified and removed an additional 29,000 registered sex offenders.
Attorney General Mike Cox issued a subpoena for the names and MySpace
identities of the offenders from Michigan the company removed in 2007.
He then posted that list on his website. He also sought criminal action
against 4 of the 200 offenders MySpace identified, because they were in
violation of the terms of their parole or probation.
says it employs Sentinel SAFE software, which reviews 120 digital
information points on MySpace profiles with a national database of sex
uses software it helped to develop called Sentinal SAFE to run its
member profiles against a database of more than 700,000 known sex
offenders. The technology ties together all the various state sex
offender registries. It compares 120 different points of
identification—including name, date of birth, photo, scars, and
tattoos—to make a positive match and block those members from
registering again. The Sentinel software is how MySpace identified
those 90,000 blocked sex offenders.”
the New York detective, challenges the accuracy and effectiveness of
the Sentinel SAFE program. In case after case, Rambam showed Michigan
Messenger the MySpace profiles and sex offender registry information of
various registered sex offenders. All of those MySpace profiles were
identified after a program searched through MySpace and the Michigan
registry, pulling down photographs and personal information — such as
name, age and location — which matched information on the sex offender
then went through each set of probable matches and compared photographs
and other information publicly available. He says this method has about
a 10 percent failure rate, and he is quite conservative on which
profiles he identifies as hard matches. Those matches not only must
line up with personal information, but the photographs must clearly
show a match as well. To make sure he had 200 solid matches, Rambam
stopped reviewing the probable hits after he confirmed 225 matches.
private investigator faults MySpace for not taking prompt action.
“Unequivocally, they could [remove all sex offenders] by this time next
month,” he says. “They have to make a conscious decision to do that.”
says the real issue is that MySpace relies on a business model built
entirely on being able to pitch the “eyeballs” of its millions of
users. Removing all the sex offenders from the social network could
cost the company “the ability to make millions of dollars” in
officials did not return multiple email requests for comment on this
story and Rambam’s allegations. Instead the company issued a blanket
statement from January 2010 which outlines “some of the things” MySpace
has done to protect MySpace users. Much of that content deals with spam
and phishing incidents which lead to online identity theft.
one area in the statement addresses sex offenders specifically. MySpace
says it has supported legislation to require registered sex offenders
to provide all their email addresses to law enforcement as a condition
of registration. MySpace says such email databases can be used to
filter out registered sex offenders.
on the other hand, in response to an inquiry from Michigan Messenger,
provided a link to its terms of service. Those rules specifically
prohibit a registered sex offender from being a member of the Facebook
community. The company also said it employs multiple staff members to
review questionable activity identified by the company’s software.
activity includes an inordinate number of friend request denials,
friending a large number of people of the same gender or friending a
large number of youth. The company also works with law enforcement to
identify sex offenders and criminal activity and will immediately
eliminate accounts of sex offenders — as long as it does not compromise
an investigation by law enforcement.
Jones agrees that MySpace is not doing enough. “I do not believe
MySpace is removing sex offenders,” he told the Michigan Messenger.
“They’re in the job of marketing their services for profit and I doubt
they are taking the time to properly do it — at least it doesn’t appear
[that way], from what I have seen.”