This is something. Therefore this must be done.
New York recently passed a law banning sex offenders from online gaming networks. No XBox Live, no World of Warcraft, no nothin’. Now, without getting into issues of Romeo/Juliet situations that end up with one of the partners on a sex offender list and without getting into the whole question of whether we should be letting people out of prison who we suspect will be sexual predators, I have a handful of responses to this situation after the cut.
The first is that, as Kazzy pointed out, we aren’t given a whole lot of details about the awful, awful situation that inspired this law. The article doesn’t mention that the abuser in this case was on the Sex Offender List. If he wasn’t (and the article doesn’t say), then this law would do diddly squat. It’s punishing people who didn’t get caught doing this because someone (who wouldn’t have been prevented by this law) actually did do this.
Additionally, the article mentions that, *BY LAW*, “Convicted sex offenders in New York already have to register their email addresses, screen names, and other online identifiers they use”. This tells me that a sufficiently motivated person could pretty easily come up with a dummy email address, screen name, or other online identifier… and, as such, the least dangerous of these folks are prevented from enjoying a hobby such as playing World of Warcraft and the most dangerous haven’t been stopped for a second. (Honestly, if I wanted to keep a sex offender from offending again, there are stupider ideas I could have than “get him to start playing WoW.”)
On top of everything else, there’s a whiff of “Craigslist Killer” to this story. If someone kills someone else, this is a tragic thing. If, however, someone kills someone else and they met this someone else on Craigslist? We’ve suddenly got ourselves some panicky headline material. We saw it happen with craigslist, we saw it happen with moos/muds, we saw it happen with party lines, we saw it happen with bulletin boards, and the only reason we didn’t see it happen with classified ads is that the newspapers didn’t want to hurt their own bottom line by making up panicky headlines about the products that they wanted to sell.
“Well, what would *YOU* do to protect The Children???”, I hear you ask. Well, I suspect that a small grant to the AD Council would come up with a campaign that would protect more children than this law will, for less cost, and in more areas than merely New York. This isn’t the kind of wickedness that a law can really prevent, at the end of the day.
Would that it could.