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Bill to keep sex offenders off social networking sites passes committees

Minnesota House bill that would prevent registered sex offenders from using social networking Web sites passed through two committees and is now awaiting inclusion in the public safety omnibus bill, said the bill's chief author, Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove.

The bill would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to use Web sites like Facebook and MySpace and gaming Web sites that allow them to chat with other players.

Registered sex offenders are already subject to warrantless searches of their homes, bodies and cars, Bigham said. This legislation would extend that to computers.

"We need to be very proactive in this area and I think keeping up with the technology is key," Bigham said. "The goal here is to protect children and protect people from sexual predators."

Bigham said the social networking industry is already working proactively to keep sexual predators out, citing a February report that MySpace cancelled the accounts of 90,000 sex offenders and sexual predators.

"They don't want registered sex offenders having accounts with them," Bigham said.

The bill passed the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee, but was defeated on a tie vote Feb. 25 by the House Civil Justice Committee. Bigham said the members of the committee needed clarification on some aspects of the bill, such as who and which Web sites it would apply to.

She brought the bill up again in the committee this week, and it passed the second time. It now goes back to the public safety committee, where Bigham said it will be considered as part of this session's omnibus public safety bill.