Well, here we go again. As I have said again and again and again and again and again and again, our public policy makers persist in the mistaken belief that the solution to the online predator problem is more Internet regulation instead of stiff sentences for offenders.
The non-solution du jour is an proposal that has been introduced both in Congress and now my home state of Virginia which would require sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses or IM address with the government. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill (S. 4089) in Congress last week that contains this provision. And, according to today's Washington Post Virginia Attorney General Robert McConnell will soon be introducing a similar e-mail registration bill. In theory, after the federal or state government officials got the predator's e-mail or IM address, they would give social networking sites like MySpace.com access to the database to cross-reference it with their users. Again, in theory, this would allow social networking sites to weed out the bad guys.
Except, of course, that there is nothing stopping the bad guys from simply signing up for a different e-mail address somewhere else! I mean, come on, this proposal doesn't even pass the laugh test! I don't know about you, but I have multiple e-mail accounts and often switch providers and change my address to evade spammers. A determined predator is going to do the same thing once this law is passed. In fact, they probably already have multiple accounts today to throw people off their trail.
Again, when will our government do the right thing and put these scumbags who hurt children behind bars for a long, long time? Instead, our lawmakers now just give them a slap on the wrist and let them walk after just a few years of hard time, meaning they are out on the streets and behind keyboards again too soon. This 2003 Department of Justice study reported that the average sentence for child molesters was approximately seven years and, on average, they were released after serving just three of those seven years.
That is outrageous, and until we get serious about bringing bad guys to justice and locking them up for a long, long time, we're never going to get this problem under control.