Sex offenders banned from online games

Microsoft, Sony, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and more agree to remove New York's registered sex offenders from their online gaming networks.

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New York is dropping the banhammer on registered sex offenders. The state's attorney general, Eric T. Scheiderman, today announced that 3,580 online accounts belonging to sex offenders have been struck from online gaming networks--or at least had their communication privileges revoked--as part of "Operation: Game Over."

AG Scheiderman at an unrelated press conference from last month.
AG Scheiderman at an unrelated press conference from last month.

The state had cooperation from Microsoft, Sony, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., Disney, and Apple, all of whom agreed to the account purge. New York requires that convicted sex offenders register all of their e-mail addresses, screen names, and similar identifiers for the purposes of limiting their access to certain online networks. This is the first time the law has been invoked relative to online gaming.

The attorney general said that sexual predators have been using voice and text chat in online gaming services to find and arrange meetings with underage victims. Earlier this month, a 19-year-old Monroe County man pled guilty to sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy he met through Xbox Live.

"At Microsoft, we continually evaluate ways to manage safety for our 40 million Xbox Live members and particularly for children on our service," Microsoft VP and deputy general counsel Rich Wallis said in a statement accompanying the attorney general's announcement. "Our partnership with the Office of the New York Attorney General helps further this cause."

When asked for comment, an EA representative told GameSpot, "This was an [Entertainment Software Association] initiative; EA is a member."

An ESA representative then commented on the program, saying, "Our industry welcomes appropriate efforts allowing people of all ages to play games in a safer environment. Online gameplay with friends is a social experience and we encourage parents to be aware of what games their children are enjoying and with whom they are interacting in the virtual space. Through the use of robust parental controls and awareness of the online world, playing games online can be a fulfilling and rich experience."

Inquiries as to which companies were able to simply limit communication functions and which purged entire accounts were not returned as of press time.

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